The Ides of March

Rated 3.0

What results onscreen is neither Shakespearean nor stunningly revelatory, but it does make for a modestly engaging tale of political in-fighting in the age of year-round media-saturated electioneering. The basic setting is a Democratic presidential primary in which a liberal Pennsylvania governor (George Clooney, who co-wrote and directs) is the apparent front-runner. Clooney, of course, looks suitably “presidential,” but the main dramatic focus is on the campaign’s managers—his own (Philip Seymour Hoffman), his rival’s (Paul Giamatti), and especially one Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), the ostensibly idealistic political handler who is press secretary for the Clooney character’s campaign. The Gosling character is a canny and even zealous spin-doctor, and his story gets several provocative complications. Myers’ centrality in the first and last moments of the film underlines the character’s primacy in all this, and Gosling is very good at evoking an intensely focused but ultimately enigmatic personage. Unfortunately, the topical urgency and political potential of the initial premises get diluted, if not entirely marginalized, in the process. Cinemark 14. Rated R