2011_ides_of_march_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times — “Beware the Ides of March” is the classic phrase uttered by a soothsayer in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Historically, it referred to a prophecy received  by the Caesar of actual history, when he visited a seer while on his way to the Theater of Pompey. The seer warned him to “beware the Ides of March,” generally recognized to be March 15th. Caesar dismissed the seer and went on to the theater — where he was stabbed to death by his statesmen.

Centuries later, “beware the ides of March” became a common phrase of foreboding, a warning to be watchful. It isn’t in much use with people younger than Baby Boomers, but the phrase apparently still holds weight: It’s being used as the title of George Clooney’s latest film.

In The Ides of March, Clooney plays a charismatic, Obama-like newbie politician, Gov. Mike Morris, whose main focus is to win the Ohio

Primary, which should catapult him to winning the Democratic ticket for the presidency. Unfortunately, there is major scandal brewing. And the person who can take care of it is Morris’ junior press secretary, Stephen (played by Ryan Gosling).

How the suspicious phrase relates to the adapted film of the same name, which is based on a play by Beau Willimon called Farragut North, I’m not sure. In the film version, written by Clooney, Willimon, and Grant Heslov, there are parallels to the Caesar event. Someone important dies. There is a plot to oust an important figure. And a small event shapes an entire situation.

It’s almost as if Willimon and company took the elements of Julius Caesar, juggled them, threw them in the air, and then wrote where the plot point landed. Thus the title makes some sense, just not wholly so. Nevertheless, this isn’t a bad film.

One of the best things about this story is that nothing is black or white. It rapidly moves itself in an ever-evolving gray area. No one is purely good or purely evil. Each character starts off one way, only to be different, transformed by the end credits.

Clooney, who also served as Ides’ director and producer, obviously has a natural talent as a director. He really delves into the ins and outs of politics and their play with the media. It seems Ides is tailor-made to make Clooney — the son of prominent television journalist Nick Clooney and nephew of singer and actress Rosemary Clooney — shine. Meanwhile, he makes sure to have the media, in the form of a news reporter named Ida Horowicz (Marisa Tomei), become the ultimate supporting player in this slow-burning campaign thriller.

Clooney isn’t the only one to shine, though. Gosling makes a starring turn as a straight-and-narrow press secretary who believes wholeheartedly in the Constitution of the United States. Gosling’s Stephen sums up this belief in one phrase: “Nothing bad happens when you’re doing the right thing.” It is at the moment that this phrase is uttered that Steve should well beware the Ides of March.

Tomei’s Ida, in representing the role of media in politics, shows the real reason reporters do what they do. The media isn’t there to be your friend. They are there to tell the unadulterated truth, especially when the truth is given to them on a silver platter. Some would say that Ida is a necessary evil. I’d say Ida is part of a checks-and-balance system. Someone has to be the objective watchdog.

Jeffery Wright captures the spotlight as Senator Thompson, the man in this film with all the power. As the brass ring of the Ohio Primary, his endorsement and Ohio’s 363 delegates are what Gov. Morris needs to win the Democratic ticket. Such a powerful figure should have had more screen time. Still his presence drives this plot to its tipping point.

While I’m not 100 percent certain how the title correlates to the story, I will say it is a cautionary tale to keep your eyes wide open come election time. Just because a candidate looks like the perfect one, doesn’t mean that he or she is. Far be it from me, however, to suggest that Clooney’s Gov. Morris represents any candidate in our 2012 election.



Photo: Photo by Saeed Adyani/2011 Ides Film Holdings, LLC.

Cautionary Tale: Governor Morris (George Clooney, left) addresses supporters after receiving Senator Thompson's (Jeffrey Wright, center) endorsement.