Film & TV

London Film Festival Blog – Day 8

Today’s big screening was The Ides of March, the new Clooney bonanza, both starring and directed by the man himself. However, I made the effort and got up super-early (yes, again) for Terri, a less hyped film but an interesting prospect nonetheless.

Terri (dir. Azazel Jacobs)

A coming of age tale starring the excellent debutant Jacob Wysocki, Terri is a quiet and understated film, which becomes the personification of its lead character. Terri is shy and introverted, largely due to his obesity and difficult family life. He lives with his uncle who needs constant care as a result of an unspecified illness that causes him to often lose track of ordinary day-to-day tasks.

Terri wears pyjamas to school and often arrives late; he doesn’t mingle well with the other children and refuses to take part in classes like gym. Seeing Terri as someone who needs extra care, Mr Fitzgerald (John C. Reilly) takes him under his wing, encouraging regular meeting sessions where they talk openly about their lives. Fans of Reilly will undoubtedly get an extra kick out of this film, though personally I found his character a bit odd — he started out as comic relief, then shifted into a more serious part; I didn’t necessarily enjoy one incarnation more than the other but the change wasn’t smooth.

The story meanders along aptly enough, though it becomes convoluted in the final third. Heather Miles (Olivia Crocicchia) plays the role of ‘hot one’ in the class. She is almost expelled after some act of promiscuity but she is saved by Terri, who clearly harbours affection for her. The two form a rather unlikely bond, one which is furthered in its lack of believability when Heather makes a drunken pass at Terri.

These final scenes are jarring in their realism, contrasting with the rest of the picture. If you become attached to Terri and his plight until these moments, you will probably lose that involvement with the film. Still, Terri is an interesting take on the maturing teenager/outcast films and will satisfy fans of the genre.

Now for the main event. We made our way to Odeon Leicester Square (eugh) for The Ides of March gala.

The Ides of March (dir. George Clooney)

A supremely slick and morally repugnant tale, The Ides of March is a remorseless and cold political beast of a movie.

Ryan Gosling plays Stephen Meyers, an intelligent but ultimately naive man — mainly due to his age — who is nonetheless a brilliant political advisor. At first he seems to have a grip on the system, an understanding of politics that allows him to be one step ahead of the game. It transpires, however, that Meyers is far more vulnerable than he realises.

After starting a sexual relationship with intern Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), Meyers’ life descends into chaos as he tries desperately to keep the presidential campaign of Mike Morris (George Clooney) afloat while also retaining his faith that his candidate is the right man. Sitting just behind the main characters are Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti) — both parts are outstandingly portrayed by their respective actors; they slot into the film’s grim and cynical political backdrop as if it were a completely natural fit.

Throughout, the film is visually slick and aesthetically clever; in particular the lighting stands out as overpowering yet perfectly measured. Some scenes are bathed entirely in shadow, disguising the characters. This turns out to be a key theme of the film. The score is also excellent, at first it seems like it will descend into 90 minutes of patriotic trumpeting but as the film progresses it takes on a far more intense and modern guise.

The Ides of March is virtually a flawless production, populated by supreme actors. Some may have a problem with its lack of redeemable characters but others will argue that while it may be a bleak look at the world of politics, it could be completely accurate. By no means an uplifting cinematic experience, by the end I was crushed under the weight of moral bankruptcy — a horrible yet cathartic and ultimately satisfying feeling. The sharp script and excellent direction make this a must-see for those who can stomach an insider’s look into the dark and ruthless world of politics.

Another tough watch, but like Shame, very rewarding. Afterwards a load of us rushed to the Odeon West End for The Ides of March press conference. As both one of the leads and the director, Clooney would be present; that man always draws a crowd.

Press Conference – The Ides of March

After a slight delay, the press conference got underway. George Clooney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood populated the panel.

Clooney is a PR’s wet-dream. Smooth and charismatic, he handles every question with enigmatic ease and a million dollar smile. Hoffman is the antithesis of Clooney — uneasy and bored, he seems very unhappy to be in the room. Evan Rachel Wood is nervous but full of vigour; she comes across as lively and excited.

After the audience bounces a few questions off the Clooney machine, a few interesting and funny answers surface. There are several mentions of the upcoming Irish Presidential Election — one person asks the panel if they had any advice for the candidates to which Hoffman replies, “wear sweaters… with blazers”. Clooney pitched in with, “blue ties, wear blue ties”.

Evan Rachel Wood talks a little about the makeup of the film and the characters that populate it, stating that “no one was better than anyone else” by the end. I completely agree with her, though her own character may be the only one with redeeming features. After receiving a question about female directors she insits that there, “needs to be more… maybe I’ll step up.” There’s also a moment where she is quizzed on what kind of part she prefers to play. “Vampires,” Philip Seymour Hoffman suggests, in reference to True Blood.

(If you want to see a brief amateur clip of the conference, click here)

Clooney then talka about the US political system, of which he evidently has strong views. He questions whether elections justify the money they cost: “Is it worth it? 95% of winners are the ones with the most money.” He also compares the systems of the US, England and elsewhere in Europe: “Politics is incredibly different and incredibly similar.” Politics aside, Clooney is also full of jokes. He pokes fun at himself for previous roles, stating that if anyone was to smear his acting career in a political manner all they’d need to do is show “shots of me in a leather Batman outfit.” He goes onto talk about directing: “acting is an element — directing is the painter.” It seems clear that Clooney will be taking up the directorial reigns again soon.

The highlight of the press conference (or perhaps lowlight depends on how you look at it) is an awfully awkward moment when a journalist refers to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Evan Rachel Wood as the “rest of the panel”. From that onwards Hoffman begins all his answers with “the rest of the panel thinks…” I start to wonder whether Hoffman is a grumpy man or just a very funny one; I think I’ll opt for the latter. Overall, a relatively interesting press conference that did its best not to be a “Clooney fest” but ultimately failed.

Tomorrow morning is The Descendants, the first movie from director Alexander Payne since Sideways. Colour me excited.

Tom Grater

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Tom is a budding film reviewer, hell bent on providing informed opinions on the latest movie releases to those who need them, whether they like it or not.

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