The Inside Game of Electing Some Candidates can get Really Ugly
Actor / Director / Screen Writer George Clooney tries his hand at the inside game of politics with varying degrees of success. The initial story of a ultra-Liberal Democrat, Governor Mike Morris, in an Ohio Democrat Primary, running against a moderate Democrat, Senator Pullman, is compelling in the dynamic machinations of the political players in each of these politician's political camps. The story's dramatic plot platform exhibits a few holes in places that begs the audience to suspend all manner of "disbelief," leaving one to question did the film actually work?
Maybe yes, and definitely no, depending on your point of view.
Governor Mike Morris, played by Clooney without reservation, is a man driven by strong convictions. His campaign rhetoric, which is a major part of the development of his character, is long on offering simple, populist solutions to complex issues, and short on exhibiting any substantive structure of character. The Governor's obvious lack of character will eventually come back to bite him on the proverbial butt.
The Governor's opponent, Senator Pullman, played by Michael Mantell, is painted as boring, near-Republican in his political beliefs, and completely wrong for the country. Actor Mantell's role is very small and only serves as a foil to Clooney's character, which is not only a much larger role, but serves as the political divining rod for this film.
George Clooney's extra-assertive Governor Morris is admittedly agnostic, devoid of being hamstrung by any manner of traditional values and favors socialism over capitalism in all economic policy points. The Presidential Candidate's political policy is so strong in message, young ambitious political consultant Stephen Myers, portrayed by Ryan Gosling, believes in that political message's strength and its direction for the United States of America, irrespective of what he may feel for the politician as a man. Stephen is a true believer that is as driven to that message, as a moth is driven to the glow of a lone light.
Juxtaposed against Ryan Gosling's Stephen Myers's misguided idealism is Philip Seymour Hoffman's character of Senior Political Consultant Paul Zara. Paul believes in winning for the sake of winning, and is therefore much more jaded, cynical. He understands that there is imperfection in Man, and most especially in the character of politicians like Mike Morris. Conversely, he understands the nobility in the democratic contest at hand, rather than the unattainable promises made by a politician like the Governor. In that simple understanding, Paul Zara retains some measure of noble stature, and in this film of back-room Democrat politics, there is precious little of that rare commodity.
Similar to Philip Seymour Hoffman's character is Senator Pullman's lead consultant, Tom Duffy, played by Paul Giamatti. Like Actor Hoffman, Paul Giamatti is the consummate actor, and also like Hoffman's character, he is cynical, jaded and brutally honest. If there is any measure of integrity within any of the characters of this film, these two are the only candidates to claim that brass ring.
Enter the proverbial Democrat Intern Molly Stearns, played by Raleigh native Evan Rachel Wood (daughter of Raleigh theater entrepreneur and creative genius Ira David Wood) - remember Monica Lewinsky. She is also like a Moth to the lone flame within a dimly lit room, and shortly, this beautiful, bright girl becomes the unintended prey of this carnivorous pack of political wolves. This is where the story becomes, understandably, quite ugly, and the reality of political sleaze comes to the fore.
The strength of this film is the complete cast of actors, and how well they treat the material, with Director Clooney's pace of this film, at 101 minutes, brisk. The weakness of this film is the relative lack of strength the material, which is full of holes and obviously tears at the story's level of convincibility. There was too much that I just could not buy; however, I never factored in the derivative of the power of cummultive kool-aid drinking.
Rate R. Released in theaters October 7, 2011.
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