Ides of March – George Clooney gives the directors chair another try, his fourth attempt, and puts out a better than average political piece about the corruption of ideals and the folly of unobserved pride in ambitious people. Ryan Gosling plays a top campaign aid to a Presidential nominee (Clooney) who looks by all appearances to be a quality politician with a worthy, progressive agenda for the nation. But as happens, Gosling makes one bad, ego driven decision and his entire future as a campaign organizer, as well as the campaign itself, begins to unravel. Things compound when he discovers an ugly secret lurking beneath his supposedly honest and true President to be. Top shelf co-stars like Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei all pop in to churn out excellent work in parts which feel tailor made for each. Ides doesn’t quite stay the course as it should though.
Clooney’s desire to use the film as a spring board for a liberal agenda is pretty transparent. Not that I disagree with much of what he’s saying, there’s simply no subtlety to his purpose. Also something else to take to task is the eventually contrived direction of the plot itself. Clooney’s story evolves to become less about astute political observation and more about the semi-convoluted plot coiling around itself. It doesn’t choke on its own machinations but I couldn’t help but feel a more resonant, realistic story was just off to the side of the one I was watching.
The Artist – A mildly endearing cinematic throw back, The Artist does what few movies have done for decades, go silent. Director Michael Hazanavicius avoids any kind of revisionist gimmicks or retro winking by aiming straight down the line and making an old fashioned silent movie. Essentially another retelling of the Star is Born plot, Artist stars french actor Jean Dujardin as George Valentine, a silent movie star who tap dances down the road of career oblivion when he rejects the onslaught of talking motion pictures. Shortly before winding up at the bottom of the barrel he gives a career boost to newcomer Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who quickly shoots to stardom by embracing the talkie format he loathes. The two have unsaid feelings for the other which pass in glances but their career trajectories are in stark contrast to one another. He resents her success and she pities his failure.
The Artist is stylishly made and shot with a beautiful black and white palette but perhaps embraces the facile traditions of its silent ancestors a little too wholeheartedly. The movie’s simplistic story has its charms but it never feels vital or necessary. You should know how the story ends long before you arrive at the conclusion. Revisiting the form of the silent movie is an admirable idea, but maybe some revisionist gimmicks wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. As it is it’s a nice movie with some pleasant performances and a story that sets out to please and does. Although those championing it as the best picture of the year have gotten far too much out of its modest gains.