If you’re not totally disgusted with all the political ads and endless debates airing in your living room for the last few months, George Clooney’s “The Ides of March” may work for you, though as political thrillers go, it’s average at best and that’s in spite of a distinguished array of acting talent.
Pros like Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Evan Rachel Wood and Marisa Tomei always deliver solid performances. Add to that mix the genuine star power of George Clooney and the very hot commodity Ryan Gosling, and one would think that this movie is a sure thing.
Gov. Mike Morris (Clooney) is running a predictable campaign for the presidency. The role echoes the liberal leanings of Clooney and the behind-the-scenes strings are pulled by the seasoned campaign manager (Hoffman) and the second in command (Gosling), a rising politico star.
Clooney directed and, along with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon, adapted Willimon’s play, “Farragut North.” They even earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adaptation (as well as a BAFTA nomination — Britain’s equivalent award). Go figure.
Politics usually offers a stage for good drama, real and fictional. Unfortunately, the “The Ides of March” doesn’t measure up to the circus politics airing on a daily basis.
Clint Eastwood is one actor whose accomplished directorial efforts surpass his large body work in front of the camera. Not one to back down from a challenge, he tackles the life story of J. Edgar Hoover, a sometimes admired, but more often vilified icon of law enforcement.
Leonardo DiCaprio gives an award-worthy performance and transforms himself into J. Edgar, aging by decades in the process.
Co-starring in a thankless but vital role is Armie Hammer as Hoover’s aide and confidant, Clyde Tolson. Naomi Watts delivers yet another stellar performance (see “Fair Game” below) as his devoted secretary over the years.
Alas, Hoover, who was notorious for harboring information on just about anyone he deemed a potential threat, kept his own private life close to the vest. And that information is what’s missing in “J. Edgar.”
Rather than speculate about Hoover’s supposed intimate relationship with Tolson, the director tiptoes. As Hoover’s mother, Judi Dench is just creepy enough to justify the assumption that she may be the cause of her son’s obsession with privacy or, for lack of a better word, quirks.
Bottom line is that it’s tough to make a movie about a person, famous or not, who is not particularly likeable, in spite of his professional accomplishments. Here’s hoping Eastwood can put “J. Edgar” on the shelf and we can look forward to his next directorial effort.
How much do we really know about the Central Intelligence Agency? Probably very little, yet watching “Fair Game” gives some insight into the way facts can be manipulated, people can live double or even triple lives, and the truth, as perceived by the public, well, may not be true. This review is not meant to determine “fact” or “fiction” but to acknowledge an intriguing story and give a nod to an incredible performance.
Valerie Plame (Naomi Watts) made unwanted headlines a few years ago when she was “outed” as a CIA operative during George W. Bush’s presidency. Her husband, Joe Wilson (Sean Penn) served in the United States Foreign Service for most of his career and was one of the few people aware of his wife’s secret life.
The unfolding of Plame’s real-life drama in the fictional “Fair Game” works because of the tight direction of Doug Limen. There are no street chases or gun battles, but the tension he creates is viable and builds until Plame’s world collapses.
Watts is a transformative actress similar to Meryl Streep. Her recent role as J. Edgar’s secretary (in the movie of the same name) is so far removed from her performance in “Fair Game” it’s hard to imagine it’s the same woman.
Rebecca Redshaw is an author and playwright who worked for 25 years in the film industry in Los Angeles. Copies of her book, “SOFA CINEMA: An Easy Guide to DVDs,” may be purchased at the Sequim Gazette. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grading this week’s DVDs: the ABC’s
Mon, Mar 19, 2012
Politics, political figures and spies
Tue, Mar 6, 2012
Tue, Feb 14, 2012
And now, reality
Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Looking back on the year that was (Part 1 of 2)
Wed, Dec 7, 2011
Film buffs should revisit ‘Northwest’
Wed, Nov 2, 2011
Conspiracy theories played out on film
Tue, Oct 18, 2011
Mix-ups, marriage and horse management
Mon, Oct 3, 2011
Going ‘Grease,’ locally and on DVD
Tue, Sep 13, 2011
It’s All About the Music
Fri, Sep 9, 2011