A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this engrossing, well-acted thriller paints an ugly picture of the political landscape; prepare to be disenchanted (if you aren't already). Teens drawn to the movie by co-star Ryan Gosling's presence may find it very cynical, insidery, and heavy-handed, unless they're students of election cycles. Expect frequent swearing ("d--k," "f--k," and more), heated verbal exchanges, a suicide (not graphic), and sexual content (including some suggested steaminess and references to affairs and their aftermath).
What's the story?
At 30, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling) is at the top of his game, handling media strategy for Pennsylvania Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), who's the Democratic presidential candidate. Myers thinks that Morris is the real McCoy, a veteran who's mindful of the devastation that war brings; speaks his mind even on controversial, unpopular matters; and is so principled that he won't play political ball, even to garner crucial votes. Under the mentorship of Morris' campaign manager (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), Myers is allowed to flex his considerable mental muscles. He even gets to flirt with a promising intern (Evan Rachel Wood). But then he gets a surprise call from the opponent's camp. Their lead strategist (Paul Giamatti) wants to poach Myers from Morris' side, telling him that they have a number of political tricks up their sleeve that could crush the governor, so why not move to the winning side? The call leaves Myers reeling -- and sets in motion a chain of events that keeps him on shifting ground.
Is it any good?
This movie's a piece of work, really -- in a good way. There's so much that's so good about THE IDES OF MARCH: some genius mood-setting, compelling acting (especially from Gosling, Giamatti, and Hoffman, and, to a lesser extent, Clooney -- who also directed and co-wrote the script), and dialogue that rings so true that it both stings and depresses.
But while there isn't a lot that's wrong with the movie, the disappointments weigh heavily. The heavy-handed noirish-ness of it all, for starters, which tamps down the power of the Beau Willimon play that inspired it. Dress it up in Hollywood lighting and off-kilter, purposefully tense camera angles, and it wilts. The machinations are meant to shock -- and they do, but not as much as the filmmakers seem to expect. At a time when the real-life political buffet serves up all sorts of scandals, is the one that pops up in the movie all that surprising? Or even damaging? Perhaps that's the salient question.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the movie portrays politics. Do you think it's accurate? Do you think there's room for idealism in the political world?
What role does the media have in the political process? How would you describe the relationship between media and politics?
Are political scandals all that surprising in this day and age? Why or why not? Do you think there are more scandals now than there used to be, or is it just a case of more media coverage/awareness?
For kids who love thrills and politics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.