Greetings to you this Ides of March, Good Reader.
George Clooney’s THE IDES OF MARCH was a well-reviewed offering in the fall of 2011. It’s a smart, political drama with a couple of potboiler turns. Like most of Clooney’s work as a director, the movie is an embarrassment of riches in terms of casting and performances. That’s due in no small part to his long list of very talented friends. That he has so many friends doesn’t diminish the observation that talented people seem to want to work with him. Why? Because George Clooney makes interesting, accessible movies for grown ups with juicy roles for good actors. (See his Directing and Producing credits here.)
My memory may be failing me here but it seemed at the time the movie got a lot of ink, speculating on what the deep cynicism in THE IDES OF MARCH indicated of Clooney’s political leanings at the time. There was an election year coming up in the real world. Making this movie was an intriguing choice for a Hollywood A-lister who was perceived as a positive, tireless champion for politicians he supported.
I do remember walking out of the theater after seeing IDES in October 2011 and thinking, “I would really like to see the other version of this movie they could have made.” I haven’t seen Beau Willimon’s Broadway play, FARRAGUT NORTH. So, I don’t know what was changed, dropped or added for the screen adaptation that became THE IDES OF MARCH. I do know what interested me most in the film — the characters played by Paul Gimatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Gimatti and Hoffman played the grizzled, veteran campaign managers of opposing candidates in a bare knuckle brawl to become the Democrat’s candidate for the U.S. Presidency. The scenes that feature these two actors are hands down the best in the movie and the story lines their characters are moving forward are the most compelling.
Sometimes a movie works for you, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it works just fine but you can see in the finished product a glimmer of a better movie — the path not taken. That’s how I felt about THE IDES OF MARCH. Hoffman and Giamatti as political operatives going head to head for 90 minutes is the movie I would love to have seen. A few weeks ago it was improbable we’d ever see that movie. Now, it’s impossible. I’m glad we at least have the version of the film that was made — so we can still enjoy the work of those actors and wonder about the movie that might have been.