The Ides of March – Review

The Ides of March (2011)

Directed by George Clooney. Starring Ryan GoslingPaul GiamattiGeorge ClooneyPhilip Seymour Hoffman

As many before me have pointed out, this film is clearly an early Oscar bait for the forthcoming awards season: it’s slick, handsome, subtle and has some great performances all around.

As a massive fan of the West Wing and political dramas in general, I was always going to like a film that takes place behind the scenes of a political campaign to elect a candidate at the US primaries. But on the other hand, maybe because of my knowledge of the genre, I couldn’t help feeling a certain sense of déjàvu in the depiction of both the plot and the types of characters. Yes, politicians are double-faced, scheming, deceiving, fast talking… This is an immature democracy soaked in disappointments and yet at the same time in colourful optimistic rhetoric.

We’ve seen most of this before, but despite its unremarkable familiar atmosphere, the film looks and feels so good and has enough confidence and tension to keep you thrilled throughout. And just when you’re about to think “this might be a tiny bit slow”, it pulls off a couple of truly unexpected twists and turns it from a political drama into a pulsating thriller. I must confess, at one point I was literally lost as to where it was all heading to.

Clooney co-wrote it, directed it and stars in it too. As a the man behind the camera, he handles it all with great subtlety and films it more as a theatre play, relying on the skills of his actors rather than big actions scenes, or car chases and shootouts. As the man in front of the camera, he takes a step back from the central stage and lets Gosling and the rest of his might cast to do most of the work.

Ryan Gosling in his third movie in a row in little more than a month confirms himself as the actor of the year: his performance is perfectly pitched: strong, charismatic and clever in a way that makes it very easy to like and identify with, despite the weaknesses and darker shades of his character. Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman, unsurprisingly, are perfect as always and Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei both shine in their limited supporting roles.

In the end Clooney might have more chances at the Oscar with his wonderful performance in the “Descendants” coming out soon (which I’ll be reviewing next), and anyway it’s probably a bit too early to make any Oscar predictions (will people still remember this film next February? I can hardly remember it after just a few days…), but this is still a solid political/thriller of the caliber we don’t get many these days, which treats its audience as thinking human beings capable of actually following a plot without the need to spell it out right from the title itself.

7.5/10

The Social Network – Review

The Social Nework (7.5/10)

Directed by David Fincher. With Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Rooney Mara, Joseph Mazzello

I know, this film has now been out for weeks, but I’ve only just managed to catch it on the big screen and since I can tell this is one of those we are going to be talking about in the coming Awards season, I thought I should probably spend a couple of words discussing it.

Easily the starting point has got to be the script. Aaron Sorkin is the real star of the film. The fast, sharp and witty dialogue, the same we all fell in love with on the West Wing is Sorkin’s trade mark and it is apparent on pretty much every single line in “The Social Network”. At the end of the day it’s what really makes it work.

David Fincher’s direction this time seems invisible to the untrained eye, but obviously to be able to make a bunch of nerds sitting by a computer interesting and compelling, as this film is,  must have been not an easy task.

The entire cast is faultless, lead by Jesse Eisenberg who is absolutely perfect in his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. Even Justin Timberlake, however hateful and annoyingly disgusting he is in the movie,  is actually very good as Sean Parker, the inventor of napster, as we learn from his first scene in the film.

From the start the film  quite clearly does not want to take sides and decides to avoid lawsuites by drawing its dialogue from the various transcripts from the various procedural meetings with the various sides’ lawyers.

And if there is a problem with the film, this is maybe it: there’s a certain detachment throughout, from the way it’s filmed (Ficher’s direction is often quite cold and calculated), to the way it’s written (typical of Sorkin), and edited (the constant cutting backwards and forwards from the procedural meetings to the real story), basically from the way it’s conceived right from the start. All of which prevents you from having a real emotional attachment to any of the character on the screen.

You never really care about any of them in particular. Each of the actors does absolutely their best with what they are given, but clearly that’s not enough.

We almost want to feel bad for Andrew Garfield’s character (who plays Zuckeberg’s best friend Eduardo Saverin), but we are never given the chance to get too close to him, to fully care and really share his feeling of betrayal. In fact his character disappears half way through the film (he goes to New York) and when he comes back towards the end, are we supposed to reconnect straight away and feel for him? I don’t think so.

The film is so careful about not taking sides and sticking to the truth that it ends up being too clinical, cold and makes you feel really detached from it. I am sure that was probably the way all those people are in real life, but if you have to watch them for 2 hours you really need someone to care about.a

Towards the end (SPOILER ALERT… but not really…), we’re almost given a glimpse of a moment where we are meant to feel sorry for Mark Zuckerberg (a person so incapable to connect with real people, just as he was so good in making them connect with the internet), but it’s too little, too late. It’s really not enough and actually, that’s not how the film has been up until that point.

I really wanted to love this movie, I wanted it to become my favorite film of the year and instead, I just thought it was all right.. but not more than that. And I am almost angry with myself for saying that!

With all the will in the world, I don’t think I can give it more than 7.5/10. Still a very good film, but not the masterpiece I was hoping.

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