George Clooney's 'Ides of March': Early reviews from Venice
George Clooney's "The Ides of March," a story of backroom betrayals during a critical moment in a fictional presidential race, kicked off the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday, and the early critical appraisals -- positive but a bit reserved -- are trickling in.
Clooney directed the film and also stars as Gov. Mike Morris, a hardcore liberal’s dream candidate; Morris’ campaign is run by Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), with Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) Zara’s most talented — and unreservedly idealistic — aide. Two seemingly innocent Myers encounters — between him and a campaign intern (Evan Rachel Wood) and an adviser to Morris’ rival — set off a chain reaction that threatens to take down the candidate.
The film won't hit U.S. theaters until Oct. 7 (when the L.A. Times review will appear), but here are a few early assessments:
Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter says, "poised between politics and thriller, this morality tale from Clooney & Co. is illuminated by a terrific ensemble cast." She adds that "its dingy Midwestern setting" and "structural lack of heroics" is likely to "keep the popular vote down" on the film. But she says “Ides” can "bank on tense pacing and a superb cast, led by a ruthlessly idealistic Ryan Gosling, to win festival votes beginning with its Venice bow."
Writing for Variety, Justin Chang is less enamored, calling the film "implausible, toothless and weirdly dated" and saying: "Ho-hum insights into the corruption of American politics are treated like staggering revelations. ... George Clooney's fourth feature as a director observes the inner workings of a Democratic presidential campaign through the eyes of a hotshot press secretary who isn't as smart as he thinks he is; something similar could be said of this intriguing but overly portentous drama, which seems far more taken with its own cynicism than most viewers will be."
Dave Calhoun at Time Out says the film is "solid enough as a minor moral tale about politics -- but its teeth are not as sharp as its ponderous title, overplayed final scene of co-star Ryan Gosling staring into a television camera or more flat noir-ish elements would all like to suggest. However, taken as a diverting aside on our world and with its more awkward pretensions forgiven, it’s captivating enough and well-performed."
Meanwhile, over at London's Guardian newspaper, they're already reporting the odds for which film is likely to take home the top prize at Venice, the Golden Lion. According the the Guardian, bookmaker Paddy Power says David Cronenberg's "A Dangerous Method" -- which looks at the friendship between renowned psychotherapists Sigmund Freud (played by Viggo Mortensen) and Carl Jung (played by Michael Fassbender) -- is the 5-1 favorite to go home with the Lion.
"Ides" shares 6-1 odds with "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" and "Shame."
And in case you're curious, betting is already on in Britain for February's Oscar race. "War Horse" from Steven Spielberg has 5-2 best picture odds, while the silent film "The Artist" and Clint Eastwood's "J. Edgar" coming in at 4-1. Bettors seem to like Oprah Winfrey's chances at being host too.
-- Julie Makinen
Photo: Paul Giamatti, from left, George Clooney and Philip Seymour Hoffman pose for photos at the opening of "The Ides of March" at the 68th Venice International Film Festival on Wednesday. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP/Getty Images