A procedural on the political manipulation of medium and message, George Clooney's fourth directorial effort is bookended with scenes of media-op prepping. In the first, Stephen Myers (Ryan Gosling), a 30-year-old campaign adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Mike Morris (Clooney), fills in for his boss at the sound check for a televised debate leading up to a queasily close Ohio primary. Stephen runs through lines from the candidate's bluff-heavy speech, suggesting that anyone who doesn't buy Morris's political and religious credentials shouldn't vote for him, and concludes with his own glib ad lib: "Whatever you do, don't vote for me." As Stephen is transformed from naive believer to cynic with all-too-intimate sausage-factory experience, the film's ironic tone moves from relatively harmless spoken joke to insidious unspoken subtext, so that, as Stephen mikes up to comment on another speech in the film's final moments, in which the candidate drops words such as "dignity" and "integrity," we're meant to read painful moral conflict and compromise onto Gosling's... More >>>
From naive beliver to cynic: Stephen (Ryan Gosling).