Early Buzz: George Clooney's 'The Ides Of March' Scores Mild Venice Victory

The trailer for George Clooney's fourth film, the political drama The Ides of March, suggested that the film might turn out to be a good character piece that has appeal beyond the limits of a political drama that is locked in a four-year old contest. (The source material is Beau Willimon's play Farragut North, which is sourced from Howard Dean's 2004 primary campaign.)

Now the film has bowed at Venice, and a handful of reviews are in. Cautiously positive seems to be the overall average, and we've got a handful of quotes from Venice attendees below.

The Playlist is more positive than most, saying,

It can also be a difficult world to make truly cinematic, but Clooney makes it work here, thanks undoubtedly to DP Phedon Papamichael ("Sideways"), who gives a real chill to the Midwestern landscapes, and makes effective use of some Gordon Willis-esque silhouettes—although it should be said that the director overplays his "let's frame the characters in front of the American flag" a little in places. But it never feels small-scale, and fully embodies the addictive chaos of the campaign trail, something that keeps people like Stephen "married to the job," and that's certainly a victory for a film like this.

Variety, on the other hand, is a lot more negative, opening with:

Ho-hum insights into the corruption of American politics are treated like staggering revelations in "The Ides of March." George Clooney's fourth feature as a director observes the inner workings of a Democratic presidential campaign through the eyes of a hotshot press secretary who isn't as smart as he thinks he is; something similar could be said of this intriguing but overly portentous drama, which seems far more taken with its own cynicism than most viewers will be.

(Note that while the Playlist praises the cinematography and score, Variety isn't as taken with either: "Lensed in alternately dark and chilly tones by d.p. Phedon Papamichael and accompanied by Alexandre Desplat's brooding, busy score.")

The Guardian is strictly middle of the road:

The Ides of March is tense and involving, a decent choice for the festival's opening-night film. And if that vote seems a little grudging, that's only because I can't help feeling that there were surely wilder, more interesting contenders that fell by the wayside. What remains is your classic compromise candidate: a film that set out with a crusading zeal but had its rough edges planed down en route to the nomination.

Finally, In Contention praises the tension between some characters, while dismissing the film's media attitude as quaint and finally taking a shapr jab at the overall tone:

...for a film that affects a jaded, it-was-ever-thus air about the reality of dirty politics (that title isn't exactly rich in ambiguity, either), the way it stares earnestly aghast at the characters' hypocrisies and double-crossings is itself naïve at best, and downright disingenuous at worst.

Still: the general reception to the film's craft and some of the performances and characters seems positive enough that the negative notes aren't going to dampen my interest in the film. And if it's not quite a Presidential effort, I can live with that.