Friday, May 15, 2015

Birthday Take: Grant Heslov in "The Ides of March" (2011)

Ryan Gosling in The Ides of March
Welcome to The Birthday Take, a column dedicated to celebrating Oscar nominees and winners' birthdays by paying tribute to the work that got them noticed. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive retrospective, but more of a highlight of one nominated work that makes them noteworthy. The column will run whenever there is a birthday and will hopefully give a dense exploration of the finest performances and techniques applied to film. So please join me as we blow out the candles and dig into the delicious substance.

The Facts

Recipient: Grant Heslov
Born: May 15, 1963 (52 years old)
Nomination: Best Adapted Screenplay - The Ides of March (nominated)

The Take

While it isn't something that is all that much considered, George Clooney is a great director. True, he may occasionally have a so-so film, but his assurance and charisma speaks volumes. That is why that it makes sense that arguably his best work, The Ides of March, feels like his most personal. While Clooney has gone on record of not running for president, it does feel like he would be very similar to his fictional candidate figure in the film if he did. With a film taught with infinite scandals and political alliances, this is a film that doesn't quite get its due. It may not be chronicling a major event like All the President's Men or Frost/Nixon, but its commentary alone is something relevant enough to make it seem like it should be a bigger deal.

At its core is the screenplay adapted from the play Faragut North that follows Clooney's campaign man played by Ryan Gosling. The results are scandalous and full of the typical back stabbing. However, what makes the film work is that there's always a well orchestrated speech at its core. It wears its political views on its sleeve, even claiming that its characters are married to the campaign. It has a sense of purpose in Gosling's career, especially as he becomes more and more of a pariah. If anything, it proves that the faults of one can hurt another in politics, which leaves the ambiguous ending on an unfortunately bleak message. Is Gosling a scumbag? Who knows.

Yet the film can revel in this dark subject because it has a dark wit to it all. In between moments of peril, the conversations are allowed to get vile, even throwing out a dirty joke here or there. These characters feel lived in, but not to the point of caricature. It has the orchestration of a thriller, but with personality and espionage jammed together in discomforting ways. It will leave a hefty amount of dialogue with ideals for the audience to dissect and wonder what is going on. The opening scene alone shows an interesting way of how loyalty impacts candidates. There is a well oiled machine to everything, and that is itself impressive.

Grant Heslov has been a longtime Clooney conspirator. Having won Best Picture for co-producing Argo, their work has occasionally leaned more towards the political, which makes sense given their outside interests. However, it is hard to imagine Clooney being nearly as successful without Heslov to help him work on scripts and get films made. He is a behind the scenes man who goes for the gusto and in the process produces some of the more striking films of the recent era. While I hope that The Ides of March will eventually get its due, it does remain an impressive piece of work for both of them.

While it is likely that Heslov won't be able to ever outshine Clooney's reputation, he still manages to produce top notch work in the process. With an impressive legacy that features a long acting career and a few Oscar nominations to boot, he has a lot to be thankful for. However, The Ides of March may be the moment where he made something so striking and enriched with details that it may be his best work. It commands attention and gives the actors something to chew on. He is a producer with a quality track record, which is saying something. One can only hope that this continues as time goes on. If The Monuments Men is any indicator, it likely will be just fine.

No comments:

Post a Comment