It seems only fitting given what day it is.
This movie was originally based on a play called Farragut North after the metro stop that shuttles Washingtonians to the infamous K Street lobby and consulting shops. Of course, that is if any of those people every took the metro. (Full disclosure: I was asked to give a lecture to the cast of Farragut North when it came to Houston in 2011.)
Regardless, the play was loosely based off the 2004 Howard Dean campaign, Joe Trippi, and their intrepid press secretary, Jay Carson (who is now CEO of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and Senior Advisor to Bloomberg Philanthropies). It was written by Carson’s friend who also worked/interned on the campaign. Let’s just say that creative license was used and it didn’t reflect the deepest understanding of how the campaign world ticks, but it certainly had its moments.
I waited quite a while to see the movie because its hard to know when one is in the mood to see one of the most cynical takes on the American political system since the Manchurian Candidate. To its credit, the movie fixes a number of the flaws in the plot from the play. It is also exceptionally well cast.
Ok, those were the good things. All of them.
To the extent that the West Wing was uplifting, optimistic, patriotic, witty, and fun…Ides of March is exactly the opposite. The characters are craven, shallow, and back biting. The plot is everything there is to hate about meta-politics (stories about the story). And the takeaway seems to be that everyone in politics from the candidate to the staffers to the reporters down to the interns are hateful people who are all good at blackmail and palace intrigue. I’m unclear who the intended audience for this movie would be other 18 year olds in an attempt to persuade them to skip that hill internship and go straight to Goldman where the people are nicer.
Perhaps Americans are seeking an explanation for why the system appears to broken and why people like John Edwards are able to mask their duplicity for so long. And, if that’s the case, I suppose this movie gives some answers in the form of a Hobbesian outlook: politics is nasty, brutish, and short.
Either way, you’ll need a good dose of President Bartlet before you try to go vote.