SPOILER ALERT!!! YOU SHALL NOT PASS…unless you’ve seen the movie :)
I have been a fan of Ryan Gosling since his minor role in Remember the Titans, but I believe he left a little something to be desired with his performance in The Ides of March. The movie kept me very much entertained, especially during the final half hour of the film, but Gosling’s performance came in third place behind those of veterans Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
In the first part of the film, we are introduced to the charming, quick-witted Stephen Meyers (Gosling), who is a valuable aide to presidential candidate Mike Morris (George Clooney). Gosling is almost reprising his role from Crazy, Stupid Love (which was just delightful) except with a little less debonair and a lot more political know-how. He is the immensely important young mind that will push Morris into the Oval Office and everyone has begun to take notice. I have no problem with Gosling in the first part of the film, but once his character must adapt to an ever-popular scandal, (seriously, why can’t politicians keep it in their pants?) his performance can’t keep up.
When Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood) tells Stephen about her one-night stand with Morris, Gosling’s reaction is entirely believable. It is when his character discovers Molly’s death/suicide that I become skeptical of the emotions Gosling is trying to convey.
Throughout the film, Gosling’s character is a positive, good-hearted human being. He is involved in the cutthroat world of politics, but it never seems that he is susceptible to the mind games and backstabbing that Giamatti’s character uses. Right after Molly dies, though, Stephen falls prey to all sorts of political immorality.
I realize Molly’s death is supposed to have a dramatic effect on Stephen, but how long has he known her? A week? Maybe two? As he says, he “likes her,” but does her death truly drive him to an altered mental state? I can understand his anger towards Morris because it is certainly justifiable. It is his willingness to use her death as a stepping-stone in his career that I can’t seem to grasp. Stephen has obviously done well for himself at the age of 30, but is this really how he has achieved so much success? I just don’t buy it.
During the last 30 minutes of the film, the intended theme becomes clear: The world of politics is dirty, and it can change you. Although this theme unfolds, the first hour of the film doesn’t prepare us for Stephen’s final act of selfish ambition.
So does the problem lie with Gosling’s acting? Or does the script demand too much of him and ask for contrasting emotions? It seems both Gosling and the script are at fault.
In the beginning of the film, Gosling does a good job of encompassing the role of a young, smart political mind, but he has a difficult time adapting to the ruthless, vengeful character that the script demands he become. Maybe the script is simply asking too much out of Gosling, though, or any actor for that matter. The rapid change in emotions is almost unbelievable based on what we’ve learned about the character, and it seems unfair to put Gosling up to this test.
Whether it’s Gosling or the script, though, I was let down by the ending. Maybe it was simply not the conclusion I wanted, but nevertheless I was disappointed in what was otherwise a very entertaining film.
My rating: 79%
P.S. Did you ever think Molly (Evan Rachel Wood) would actually kill herself (if that’s what actually happened)? I know she was upset about her situation, but I never thought she was on the brink of suicide. Especially after she oh-so-easily picked up Stephen and then toyed with him about her real age (and of course that happened after she had already slept with Morris and was trying to get an abortion). The whole situation seemed rushed, almost like it was a storyline in a soap opera.