by Lee Mosier
With hopes held high for a George Clooney directed drama about the devious nature of the politics, audiences have to settle for a script that falls short with an anticlimactic feel and a transparent conclusion. The film, which is based off of Beau Willimon’s play Farragut North, begins in a foreboding fashion with Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) sound checking for his candidate, Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), in an empty auditorium. This scene essentially paints the picture of a lifestyle involved in politics filled with isolation, empty relationships and inability to trust anyone. We follow this political golden child, Stephen Meyers, as he weaves through the political minefields of deceit and disloyalty with the hopes that his candidate George Morris will win. Meyers, a dedicated 30 year old who has spent his life in politics naively believes his candidate is the only man that can make a difference. The film takes place in the state of Ohio as Morris’ party rushes to secure a crucial Senator Thompson (Jeffrey Wright) as well as his delegates in order to win the state and ensure Morris the democratic primary for the presidential race.
Throughout the film you are intro duced to numerous characters such as Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as Morris’ number 1 and Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei) as the ever-persistent reporter lusting for the next big scoop. Paul Giamatti is introduced as Tom Duffy depicted as the conniving enemy. His honesty is as deep as his malevolence as he plays Gosling for a fool by having a meeting to induce him to change sides. The meeting ultimately costs Stephen Meyers his job by Paul Zara concluding he is not to be trusted. While this who’s playing who cat and mouse game is going on, add a pregnant intern, whose father is predictably the married all American governor’s son, and the viewer has an enormous pool of chaos to choose from as their favorite. Even the impressive cast couldn’t combat the loose script, which never really gives the viewer any sort of focus of conflict. The audience is locked in to this battle for the democratic nomination when suddenly it becomes an instructional film on how to stab someone in the back and all the while this pregnant intern (Evan Rachel Wood) is wrestling with the issue of abortion. As a result, the viewer cannot identify the resolution of the main conflict. Between the struggles of loyalty between Meyers and campaign party, the lingering problem of securing a certain senator support to ensure victory, and an intern carrying the married Governor Morris’ child, no viewer will want to emotionally delve into the tedious nature of dragging all of these conflicts out. It juggles so many different problems that one can’t be singled out as the reason why you will walk away from the theater feeling satisfied.
Ryan Gosling puts on a commanding performance that does deserve some attention. He is able to depict the philosophy of the political game, empty relationships and the inability to trust anyone. Furthermore, the scandal involving the pregnant young woman presented a brand new theme for the film that could have been more thoroughly explored but instead the film takes a cheap shortcut by having her commit suicide, instantly putting the spotlight back on this game of wits between Meyers and Morris. Thus, turning the movie back into more scenes of who has the best poker face and who is bluffing. I do however think that they really did pull back the curtain on what really happens in political races. So many elements are involved that the common man would never know which play such large parts in a political race. Even the slightest faux pas in the presense of a reporter could change the outcome of a political race. The true definition of the film occurs at the end when the reporter, Ida, tries to strain information out of Goslings character by reminding him that they are friends in which he responds, “You’re my best friend”. That one statement encompasses the entire meaning of the film, smiles to your face but knives in your back, the true definition of politics. All in all the film is worth seeing but the depressing nature of the business as well as the shortcuts it takes around lingering issues makes it a disappointment. The continual rise of tension throughout the film gives it hope but don’t expect any real resolution to drive home with.