Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Ides of March: Assassinating the Democratic Party

"Beware the Ides of March," a soothsayer tells Roman dictator Julius Cesar, who ignores the warning, and the warning of his wife's dream, and still goes to the meeting in William Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar where he is assassinated in the Roman Senate, uttering the famous phrase, "Et tu, Brutu?" ("You, too, Brutus?") and now, the Democratic party can be saying the same (as the slain Cesar to) long-time supporters George Clooney (director, writer and actor) and Leonardo Di Caprio (executive producer) in The Ides of March.
By the trailer, the film looks like it's going to be about Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney) being politically assassinated by Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling); that's not what happens. Gov. Morris and Stephen have both been sleeping with the intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachal Wood) who gets pregnant from her affair with the Gov. and tells Stephen about it. Stephen meets with Molly in the stairwell and he's literally "above her" on the stairs and tells her what she's going to do--not just with her body--but with the rest of her life. In wanting to "protect" the Gov., Stephen gets $500 from the petty cash fund and withdraws money from his own account, takes her to the abortion clinic, gets her "started" and says he'll pick her up and then give her a plane ticket home. Molly complains that she doesn't want to go home, but Stephen tells her, "You've messed up big and when you make a mistake this big, you forfeit the right to play this game anymore." In the next scenes, the same will be told to Stephen for his mistakes in meeting with the other campaign organizer Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti).
Molly, director George Clooney who also plays presidential hopeful Gov. Morris, and Stephen Myers, the campaign assistant manager. Clooney directs Molly and Stephen on the scene where they are having their first date before "borrowing" the campaign bus to go back to Stephen's hotel room for the night. Molly is 20 and Stephen is 30, which seems to be the only (momentary) obstacle in their relationship at this point.
Tom Duffy knows that Stephen is the best on the Morris campaign, so he calls Stephen and just wants to make Stephen an offer; this is treason in the political world, and while Stephen calls his boss Paul before, he doesn't bother asking Paul if he should or should not. Tom has already won, because Paul ends up firing Stephen just for meeting with Tom. Paul decides to punish Stephen by leaking that Stephen met, so it will make it easier for him to fire Stephen. After being blackmailed by Ida the news reporter (Marissa Tomei), Stephen then turns around and uses Molly's death from the medicine given to her by the abortion clinic to blackmail Gov. Morris into firing Paul and giving Stephen the top position on his campaign team; what does Stephen use for the blackmail? Molly's cell phone that he stole from her room while looking at her dead body on the floor. Morris, after a deal with a senator that he vowed he wouldn't make, is now in position to win the Democratic nomination for president.
George Clooney as Gov. Mike Morris with Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright, also in Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace) and Morris' wife and daughter. The affair with the intern has been kept quiet and Morris has the delegates he needs to get to the White House.
What is amazing about this film is the showing of Democratic "values" and how the actual actions of the campaigners use those loose values and morals for their own ends. I was shocked as the credits were rolling and I finally realized that Clooney himself had directed it; he has learned--not only all the best directors' tricks--but most importantly, when and how to use those tricks, and it's to great advantage in The Ides of March. The entire campaign, Gov. Morris has avoided talking about his religious background; as Stephen is talking, we can hear Morris, literally in the background, saying, "I was raised Roman Catholic but I am not practicing," and we also hear him defending same-sex marriage on the basis that we would, otherwise, be discriminating (a young woman questions him about it in a meeting with students and people are making fun of her, but clearly she has a point about defending marriage because the Gov. himself abuses his own marriage); adamantly, he tells an interviewer, "I am not going to tell a woman what she has to do with her body," and, remarkably, all these consequences are shown explicitly in the film because Molly's abortion only empowers and protects men, it doesn't do anything for Molly but cost her life and the life of her child (just a day after Pelosi accuses Republicans of wanting women to "die on the floor" of abortion clinics because of funding disputes).
Gov Morris being briefed by his campaign manager and assistant manager when they realize the endorsement of Senator Thompson isn't going to be given to them. The opposition is getting Thompson's endorsement (and delegates) because they are offering him the Secretary of State position; Morris refuses to make Thompson a sweet deal because he vowed he wouldn't make those kinds of deals; by the end of the film, Stephen brokers "the deal" and Morris has Thompson.
Because he has such a loose definition of "marriage," when the chance of sleeping with the intern comes up, he takes it. Because Molly isn't practicing her own Catholic faith, she aggressively seeks out men to sleep with, then can't go to her father when she's pregnant. Depending on Stephen to pick her up after the abortion, she literally ends up being abandoned because Stephen is being fired and trying to take care of himself (Stephen is being "aborted" from the campaign team just as Molly's baby is being aborted), but what's most important is, Molly is being told by men exactly what to do with her body and then she looses her own life the same day of the abortion when she takes the medicine given to her by the abortion clinic. I have never seen abortion so explicitly exposed in a film, especially a film where the main creators are all Democrats. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the assassination of the Democratic Party and its platform by its own members, and yes, the analogy they themselves make to the assassination of Julius Cesar is timely and apt.
Stephen meeting with the opposition Tom Duffy. In explaining his strategy to Stephen later, Duffy tells Stephen that if Paul found out they met, Paul would fire him and he wouldn't be an asset for Morris anymore; Duffy withdraws his offer for Stephen to come because Stephen wants to use the abortion/affair of Molly and Morris to get revenge and Duffy tells Stephen that he's unstable and needs to get out of politics. Stephen then goes and blackmails Morris, just as Ida the reporter had tried to blackmail Stephen earlier. Morris caves into the blackmail, fires Paul and puts Stephen in control of the campaign.
Almost towards the end, a new intern is seen doing what Molly (now dead) has done as an intern. "Jill" reports to one of the older members of the campaign to get a phone and says her name is "Jill Morris, no relationship to the Governor," but we know from the way it's "being framed," that her fate will follow Molly's because there will be a relationship with Gov Morris because "Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water; Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after" which symbolizes that, once a man has had sex, he loses his head ((lost his crown) and Jill "comes tumbling after symbolizes a "fall from grace."
Nobody has learned anything. Molly and her dead baby, in very real terms, symbolize the future of the Democrat party because what "leaders" in the party are doing now are undermining the future leaders (and, literally, killing them because of their pro-choice stance) and aborting them. The theme of Gov. Morris' campaign is "Believe," but by the end of the film, there is nothing to believe in except that this man should not be a leader anywhere in this country.
 
Stephen taking Molly to the abortion clinic. Stephen takes her, goes in with her, but doesn't want to wait with her; he promises to be there to pick her up "when it's over," but he never shows up and forgets about her completely because, while he's being fired from the team, it's clearly a reference that he is being aborted just as Molly's baby is, and the campaign is forgetting about him as he forgets about Molly. Another aspect of Molly and her agenda is her father is head of the Democratic National Convention Jack Stearns, who she calls an asshole, and Stephen agrees with her. At Molly's funeral, he gives a moving speech about his love for his daughter and how much of a better place the world had been with her and all the lives that she had touched... it's doubtful that he knew anything about how his daughter really was because as the poor father is talking, all the audience could think about is what "a slut" she called herself.
After Gov. Morris has won the Democratic nomination (or is confident of doing so), Stephen is being interviewed at Catholic (Jesuit) Xavier University (named after St. Francis Xavier) and is asked to summarize how the dramatic turn of events in the last week of the Morris campaign had won the nomination and that close-up Stephen is the last shot of the film. This moment could have happened anywhere in Ohio, but instead, they choose the sixth-oldest Catholic school in the country to "frame" Stephen in the light of what he has done to get where he is (for example, Gov. Morris is at Kent State University which is probably one of the most liberal schools in the country). So we have an intentional "framing of the events in the Catholic perspective" that I wouldn't have believed was going to happen if someone had told me.
Director Clooney preparing Ryan Gosling for what will be the last shot of the film in Xavier University when the audience will be reminded of all his offenses and backstabbing as the reporter asks him to explain how things have happened in the last couple of weeks in the Morris campaign and how he got to where he is.
In conclusion, anyone who says that this is a Democrat film, is a Democrat doing damage control; members of the Democratic Party seem to be at an end, like the assassins of Cesar, with the party's ways, methods and platform. This is an expose from George Clooney that I wouldn't have thought possible, but there are no punches pulled in demonstrating what happens to the world when people don't practice their Catholic faith, what happens to the world when there is a vacuum of morals and what will happen to the world if the Democrats are left in the power. A final note on Mr. Clooney's directing: he uses light, he uses shadow, he uses profile shots, he uses height shots, he uses noise and silence to perfection. I am thoroughly impressed with the education he has taken upon himself to exercise in film making and it has demonstrated itself in all its brilliance in The Ides of March. I know that I haven't had the typical review of the film: here is a link to the type of reviews of it that I have read: Ides of March review. I think his review, and all the ones like it, are totally off, but they have the majority, not I.  I think the greatest compliment I could give to Mr. Clooney is: Aunt Rosemary would be proud.
Et tu, George Clooney?