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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Ides of March

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


George Clooney stars in a scene from the movie "The Ides of March."
As recounted in the classic Shakespearean play that bears his name, the soon-to-be-assassinated Julius Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March." In the case of director and co-writer George Clooney's savvy yet raw political drama, "The Ides of March" (Columbia), that's good advice for all but the gamest adults.

While fundamentally moral in most respects, this study in the corrupting effects of power is studded with mature subject matter and machismo-driven vulgarities that call for a well-formed conscience—and a thick skin—on the part of viewers.

Testosterone levels are high and the F-bombs get dropped lightly and often at the campaign headquarters of presidential candidate Gov. Mike Morris (also Clooney).

A liberal Democrat, Morris has won the heartfelt allegiance of his up-and-coming press spokesman Stephen Meyers (Ryan Gosling) as well as the unshakable—though strictly professional—loyalty of Stephen's boss, veteran campaign manager Paul Zara (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

As the Morris forces work feverishly to win the crucial Ohio primary—slated for March 15, the modern equivalent of the titular date in the calendar of ancient Rome—Stephen has two experiences that suddenly change his whole outlook on the race.

The first is a secret meeting with Tom Duffy (Paul Giamatti), Paul's opposite number in the camp of Morris' sole remaining rival; the second a casual fling with Molly Stearns (Evan Rachel Wood), a young but sexually forward intern from his own office. Via the latter liaison, Stephen accidentally uncovers a seamy secret that leaves his idealism tottering.

With a sharp script—written in collaboration with Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon—and a powerful cast, Clooney turns in a slick adaptation of Willimon's play "Farragut North," first staged in 2008. But significant plotlines involving marital infidelity, a situation that potentially amounts to unintentional statutory rape and, above all, the destruction of an unborn life set this far apart from casual entertainment.

Candidate Morris, who has rejected not only the Catholic faith in which he was raised but Christianity itself, and publicly expresses uncertainty as to our fate after death, is unapologetically "pro-choice." Yet—with wild but not, alas, unrealistic inconsistency—he immediately follows this up by basing his opposition to capital punishment on the grounds that "our society should be better than that."

Still, Morris' stand on any given issue—he also voices support for single-sex "marriage"—is not the point of the movie, which is really about the electoral process and behind-the-scenes personal ethics. As for the onscreen visit to an abortion mill, the grimness and lingering remorse engendered by such a descent into the darkness—though not, of course, the full horror of it—are effectively conveyed.

The film contains brief semigraphic nonmarital—and possibly underage—sexual activity, abortion and adultery themes, a suicide, an instance of blasphemy, about a half-dozen uses of profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.



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Peter of Alcantara: Peter was a contemporary of well-known 16th-century Spanish saints, including Ignatius of Loyola and John of the Cross. He served as confessor to St. Teresa of Avila. Church reform was a major issue in Peter’s day, and he directed most of his energies toward that end. His death came one year before the Council of Trent ended. 
<p>Born into a noble family (his father was the governor of Alcantara in Spain), Peter studied law at Salamanca University and, at 16, joined the so-called Observant Franciscans (also known as the discalced, or barefoot, friars). While he practiced many penances, he also demonstrated abilities which were soon recognized. He was named the superior of a new house even before his ordination as a priest; at the age of 39, he was elected provincial; he was a very successful preacher. Still, he was not above washing dishes and cutting wood for the friars. He did not seek attention; indeed, he preferred solitude.</p><p>Peter’s penitential side was evident when it came to food and clothing. It is said that he slept only 90 minutes each night. While others talked about Church reform, Peter’s reform began with himself. His patience was so great that a proverb arose: "To bear such an insult one must have the patience of Peter of Alcantara."</p><p>In 1554, Peter, having received permission, formed a group of Franciscans who followed the Rule of St. Francis with even greater rigor. These friars were known as Alcantarines. Some of the Spanish friars who came to North and South America in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries were members of this group. At the end of the 19th century, the Alcantarines were joined with other Observant friars to form the Order of Friars Minor.</p><p>As spiritual director to St. Teresa, Peter encouraged her in promoting the Carmelite reform. His preaching brought many people to religious life, especially to the Secular Franciscan Order, the friars and the Poor Clares.</p><p>He was canonized in 1669.</p> American Catholic Blog Remember the widow’s mite. She threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them, all her great love…. It is, above all, the interior value of the gift that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. —Pope John Paul II

 
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