People ask if there are real movie stars today, people that could rank with Gable, Cooper, Davis, and either Hepburn. All they have to do is look at Brad Pitt and George Clooney in their latest films. MONEYBALL, based a non-fiction best seller, chronicles the 2002 season of the perennial losers, the Oakland Athletics. Pitt plays Billy Beane, a clubhouse manager who works with a smart Yale grad to choose the best possible team through computer stats. That throws him into conflict with the players, the manager, the owners, and especially the scouts, who are seen as a crusty group of seniors who don't believe in change or the hope of winning. Pitt's performance is one of his best, combining his winning charm with a sense of self-doubt. Unlike the treacly FIELD OF DREAMS or the terrific and hilarious BULL DURHAM, this film looks at baseball as a business that Beane is trying to improve for everyone.
George Clooney, who directed and co-starred in GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK, has now helmed THE IDES OF MARCH, in which he plays a supporting role as a presidential candidate. The star and focus of the film is Ryan Gosling, who seems to be in a film every other week, and for good reason. His demeanor, his eyes, his intensity do not really give away too much of his character. And that's the point. The film begins with Gosling explaining his belief that the Clooney character is "the real thing." But, as in most political films, events conspire to shake his hero worship and even his own ethics. THE IDES OF MARCH isn't profound, possibly because politics are not, but it is a smart, tense look at the inside of a campaign where one mistake or misinterpretation can doom not only the candidate but people's hope for the future. A superb supporting cast that includes Marisa Tomei, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Paul Giamatti back up Gosling and Clooney, making this movie one to savor if you like great acting.