Idealism duels with cynicism on 'Ides of March'

You might be tired of politics already. But before primary-election fatigue sets in, give The Ides of March a chance.

Directed by and starring George Clooney, the film is based on Farragut North, a play by Beau Willimon about a presidential campaign.

Clooney plays Mike Morris, the governor of Pennsylvania who's locked in a tight primary race, with the Ohio vote coming up. Morris has the looks and liberal cachet to inspire volunteers, but as one staffer says, "You stay in this business long enough, you get jaded and cynical." The Ides of March weaves its way through that idealism and skepticism.

Morris' campaign manager is old pro Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman), assisted by Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling), an ambitious whiz kid. He's enough of a believer to care, enough of a cynic to get into trouble.

Paul's opposite number is Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), the wily campaign manager for Morris' opponent. Buzzing around is Marisa Tomei as a New York Times reporter who plays chummy with the pols to get scoops.

With the campaign at a turning point, every miscue or misstatement becomes magnified, and Stephen is caught between his ambitions and doing the right things.

Meanwhile, he has begun a romance with a young intern (Evan Rachel Wood), and everyone immediately knows there will be complications.

Having seen the play, I can't say I like all of the changes made to The Ides of March. The film rightly opens up the action, giving the material more breadth, but by raising the stakes, it becomes a little pat at the dramatic end. Still, it never loses its impact.

The film, shot in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, is unlikely to change anyone's mind about politics. My guess is that most Americans aren't surprised by anything a candidate will do to win, although lately it seems people will overlook just about anything if their candidate lines up with them on certain issues.

The Ides of March retails for $30.99 or $35.99 Blu-ray.