“The Ides of March” as a film presents such lovely potential: Billed as a “thriller” with an Oscar-studded cast (at least 3 award winners fill the screen), it promises to clash political idealism against the dirty world of insider politics.
And the actors in the film really deliver: Watching Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti duke it out as rival campaign managers – especially as both turn in great performances – is a movie lover’s treat.
The cinematography, the directing, the dialogue … all show marks of excellence.
Unfortunately, not even all Hollywood’s top talent can put lipstick on this pig of a story. For “The Ides of March” is a dark, cynical, thoroughly depressing movie that makes me earnestly wish I went to watch this weekend’s film on boxing robots instead.
Yes, I see that it’s a gripping tale, its characters are very gritty and real, they face difficult dilemmas and wrestle with powerful emotions. In short, it has all the “arsty fartsy” markers of a great movie.
But on an entertainment scale of 1 to 10, “The Ides of March” scores in negative numbers. There’s no hero to root for, no redemption, no victory and no hope that victory or progress or virtue are even possible.
“Go get a life!” Giamatti’s character tells the film’s last remaining idealist. “If you stay in this business long enough, you’ll get jaded and cynical, like me.”
Watching “The Ides of March” will do it, too.
Once the slimy oil of the film wears off and the ensuing doldrums give way to the dawn of another day, however, it’s worth noting that “The Ides of March” makes a powerful – if completely unintentional – commentary on the difference between Republicans and Democrats, between “conservatives” and “progressives.”
For starters, every weekday, Rush Limbaugh gets to spout off nearly uninhibited on everything that’s wrong with the nation, with Democrats and with liberals. I’ve heard the worst he has to say, and despite what the foaming-at-the-mouth mainstream-media types report, it isn’t all that ugly. Snarky, outrageously biased, over the top and ungracious, to be sure, but far from the “hate” he supposedly spews.
You can’t say the same thing about liberals when they get on a tear. And there’s no question that leftists were hard at work behind this movie.
In “The Ides of March,” by (conveniently?) making the political contest the Democratic primary instead of the presidential race, every character in the film gets to spout off liberal rhetoric and reserve his or her venom for those evil Republicans, Christians and conservatives:
- Referring to questions about his candidate’s beliefs, a campaign manager states he needs to “counter all that Christian s— we got last night”
- A cartoon spoofs Jesus “endorsing” a candidate, asking, “Well, how many delegates does he have?”
- Said: “Limbaugh, Hannity, all those right-wing blogs, every f—’in conservative”
- “This is the kind of s— Republicans pull,” says one rather condescending Democratic operative. “I’ve seen way too many Democrats fall because they wouldn’t get down in the mud with the elephants”
- On abortion: “It’s arrogant to judge without walking in [a woman's] shoes”
- In the same conversation, a full-bodied argument is made for same-sex marriage
- Republicans described as “those f—ing wing nuts”
- Online site described as “Drudge s—”
- The “solution” proposed to fighting terror is presented as simple: Just refuse to buy Middle Eastern oil and the terrorists “go away.”
- GOP described as the party of “greed and corruption”
- Campaign speech asserts, “The richest people don’t pay their fair share. And when asked to, they shout ‘socialism’ and ‘redistribution of wealth’ … Well, I don’t believe in the distribution of wealth to the rich by government”
And yet, even if moviegoers accept that the GOP bashing is simply what you’d expect from a movie inside a Democrat campaign, and even if moviegoers accept the implied premise that a movie about Republicans would sound the same, only in reverse, the film makes some bold, political worldview statements that illustrate foundational chasms between Democrats and Republicans and between biblical and unbiblical thought.
Take this statement, for example, said of an allegedly noble candidate: “The truth is, he’s the only one that’s going to make a difference in people’s lives.”
“Christian conservative” or “Obot,” this kind of politically messianic faith stands in sharp contrast to a biblical worldview.
More intriguing is this off-hand, “I naturally assume you agree with me” statement made by the top candidate in the film, while arguing against the death penalty: “Society has to be better than the individual.”
Death penalty debate aside, this statement reflects a foundational difference in thought: Is the collective ultimately more noble than the individual, presenting our best hope for the redemption and protection of people … or is the individual ultimately more estimable than the collective, presenting our best hope for the redemption of society?
Socialists, communists, progressives and, yes, Democrats, have largely held the collective in higher esteem. Think “It takes a village to raise a child” or labor unions or Medicare.
Capitalists, conservatives and, yes, Republicans, have typically held the individual in higher esteem. Think free markets, Second Amendment enthusiasts and the Gadsden flag.
Which of the two did our Founders esteem? Historically, the answer is undeniable.
Which did the Soviet revolution esteem? Again, perfectly clear.
Which does the Bible esteem? Ha, ha! That sounds like a fun debate.
- “The Ides of March” contains over 100 profanities and obscenities, many strong, and more than enough to excessively bog down the script with distractingly cheap, manufactured emotion. Next time, write the dialogue in English instead of vomit, and the script will be stronger.
- The film contains no violence and no gore, save for the body of a dead woman discreetly depicted.
- The film has plenty of crude language and two characters that lustily flirt with one another. This leads to a sexual relationship and a brief sexual encounter depicted with some minor nudity and plenty of heavy breathing. Dialogue about their relationship is present. A woman is also taken to an abortion clinic, though nothing graphic is seen.
- The film has dozens of references to Christianity and Catholicism, mostly derogatory as they relate to politics. At a funeral in a church scene, a grieving father tells the priest that he cannot accept his daughter’s death as God’s plan and judgment.