Just the year before, Ryan Gosling had been grossly snubbed for his stunning performance in Blue Valentine. When he delivered another stunning performance a year later in The Ides of March, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to remedy a flaw on the Academy’s part concerning the previous year. What also helped Gosling’s chances was the fact this was George Clooney’s recent directorial project and the Oscars had only recently shown Clooney much love for his last film, Good Night and Good Luck in 2005. Gosling’s performance was praised by critics and he even found himself with a Golden Globe nomination. However, not only was Gosling’s performance ultimately snubbed, but The Ides of March was relegated to a sole nomination: Adapted Screenplay.
The movie stars Ryan Gosling as Stephen Meyers, a communications strategist on the campaign trail with Governor Mike Morris (George Clooney), an idealistic presidential candidate who seemingly could be an inspiration if he were to be elected into the oval office. Stephen believes in Morris and sticks with him, even when the campaign manager for the opposing candidate offers him the job he had always dreamed of possessing. This all changes when Stephen accidentally stumbles onto a secret involving Mike Morris that could be potentially devastating, possibly incriminating, if the public were to find out. Stephen soon sees himself being phased out of the campaign in the form of political backstabbing and paranoia. Realizing his career in politics is close to over, Stephen maneuvers a method of maintaining his reputation and his position, to which he soon finds himself at a crossroads as to what to do, thus challenging his morality.
Gosling’s performance isn’t a showy one, but that is the point of the performance. Gosling perfectly captures the repressed emotions and the avoidance of sentimentality because those are attributes that do not have any relation with politics. Emotion is only conducive to politics when ill-intent or wrongdoing is uncovered and a politician is forced to publicly apologize. Gosling’s Stephen Meyers refuses to be a part of that circle, which Gosling was sure to convey by having his character be somewhat of a cutthroat with repressed sentimentality. Yet Gosling’s expressive acting comes in the form of realizing he is being manipulated by all those around him, by those who see him as expendable or a threat that needs to be tamed. Gosling’s acting in such moments offers the humanization the character needed, but also gives the audience further understanding why Stephen may ultimately abandon his conscience since having one in the profession of politics is a liability. Essentially The Ides of March is about the moral descent of someone who truly wants to be in politics and the sacrifice of morality that must take place in order to make a name for oneself. Ryan Gosling’s performance delivers that message perfectly within this film and he deserved more recognition for it.