By George

Last week, I briefly mentioned why I was staying away from the film Moneyball.  Coming across this missive in The Atlantic, it pretty much deconstructs a lot of what I instinctively felt about the film going in.  Basically, I’d rather spend my money paying a babysitter on something else.  Something like:

Nevertheless, the curiosity is piqued by the film’s source material, Beau Willimon’s play “Farragut North”, which my wife and I had the pleasure to see at the Geffen Playhouse in W. Los Angeles back in mid-2009.  Starring rising star Chris Pine, the play also featured Chris Noth, and Olivia Thirlby, who originated their specific roles when the play opened off-Broadway, the previous year.   Leaving the theater, the wife and I inevitably started asking about how this particular play was going to be featured on the screen–if it was to come to pass.  Sure enough, a little internet digging told us that George Clooney’s name was attached, along with Leonardo DiCaprio.  Now we just had to wait to see when the film would finally reach theaters.  Once before, I had seen Clooney’s name attached to a project, an adaptation of James Ellroy’s final “LA Quartet” book, White Jazz, even to be directed by David Fincher, only to see both actors drop out, leaving the film in a development limbo.

But now, Clooney’s film is about to be released.  DiCaprio is no longer in the film, Ryan Gosling is playing the role.  In short, the film encompasses the basic strokes of the stage play within its broader reach.  But, whereas I had anticipated that Clooney would be playing the role that Chris Noth had portrayed in New York and here in L.A., that of Paul, the veteran campaign manager who is the boss of Stephen (Chris Pine in LA, John Gallagher in NYC), instead, Clooney is playing a role that was uncast in the original play, the presidential candidate himself.   Phillip Seymour Hoffman steps into the campaign manager’s role.  And, from what it appears, the mentoring relationship between the campaign manager and the campaign’s press secretary that drove the stage play, has had the same relationship transplanted between the candidate himself, Clooney, and Ryan Gosling’s portrayal of Stephen.  In addition, the stage play’s setting, the Iowa Caucuses, has been moved to the Ohio primary, usually held in March–hence, the film’s title, The Ides of March, which also encompasses the idea of betrayal and assassination, as in Shakespeare’s play Julius Ceasar.

For anticipatory purposes, I’m at a crossroads with respect to the film.  Having very much enjoyed the play when I saw it, I will likely be stuck making direct comparisons between the portrayals of each of the characters in the film.  This isn’t necessarily like watching adaptation from book to film, it’s watching different people bring back to life characters who have already have had their own separate existence apart from their existence upon the screen.  Years ago, I saw the stage play A Few Good Men, before Rob Reiner turned it into the Tom Cruise/Jack Nicholson/Demi Moore star vehicle.  What struck me about that adaptation was how Reiner felt he needed to “school” Sorkin on how to transition stage material to the screen.  Yet having seen both, there are some key differences between the play and the film that not only affect how the plot plays itself out, but appear to have been made specifically to “upgun” the character of Lt. Kaffee who was played by Tom Cruise.

Truthfully, I am worried that something similar could happen in Ides.  But, given how much Clooney has worked to make this project happen, I would hope that he’s more interested in story over stars.  Worst case, he’s able to create one of my favorite old films, 1964’s The Best Man.  

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