The Ides of March is a movie about a governor running for the democratic nomination. And the sordid world of politics that help propel him forward into the public’s good opinion. And about the idealistic youth of politics being eaten up by a corrupt, older generation.
The official synopsis is “An idealistic staffer for a new presidential candidate gets a crash course on dirty politics during his stint on the campaign trail.” –IMDB
It is even set in Ohio. You can see locations in Cincinnati.
But the interesting point of this story for me is the women. There aren’t many women in American politics.
This movie has a flirting, sarcastic, ruthless journalist named Ida. She plays friend or extortionist depending on the mood to try to get a quote to put in the next day’s paper. She isn’t glamorous. Ida is smart. She is not young. Rather, Ida is a journalism professional and a jaded American woman.
And then you have the wife of the governor. She is supportive. She has a vested interest in her husband’s success. She is not young but a partner in her husband’s ambitions. She lays her head on his shoulder. She makes social arrangements. She listens and questions the next political move. She is almost like a necessary piece of jewelry, although to see her role as limited to merely as ornamentation would be naive.
Then there is Molly, an intern. Molly was twenty years old. Her father is in charge of the DNC. The senior manager of the governor’s campaign got her the internship and he has known her since she was small. Molly sleeps with the idealistic junior campaign manager. But Molly is already pregnant and she can’t afford an abortion. The father is the governor seeking the presidential nomination.
So the idealistic junior campaign manager makes it possible for her to have an abortion quickly, without a word to anyone else. But in between dropping her off at the Oakley women’s clinic and his promise to pick her up, the idealist staffer is fired. As he scrambles around, trying to salvage his career, Molly waits at a coffee shop, eventually takes a taxi to her room, and listens to another staff member tell her about the day’s dramatic upheaval. Now she knows her “protector” intends to turn her into the next day’s headlines in his quest to squash the governor who betrayed him.
Molly dies from an overdose of alcohol and pills.
After her funeral, idealistic staffer uses this to secure his career, becoming the senior campaign manager. Molly is replaced by a new, young female intern bringing in coffee. She is named Jill Morris.
And these are the women of the movie.
I thought it was interesting that Molly was very unprotected, although she had connections to so many powerful men in politics. Her choices in many ways were taken away from her. She was used and thrown away. Her last words in the film are “I’m not going away!” But these are heard by the idealist staffer on his cell phone, after she has already passed on. It is almost ironic, and seems slightly sinister in light of how her body was found collapsed on her room’s floor, which a suited man exited just before the idealist staffer enters and hears from a hotel employee that she is already gone.
Molly dislikes her father (for unknown reasons), is used sexually by the governor, is bedded and then handled by the idealist staffer (what was attraction quickly becomes dehumanizing insensitivity and aloofness), and is never even shown to talk to the first senior campaign manager who has apparently known her all her life. The father gives a moving speech at her funeral and given his political position it might be more dramatic than sincere. In fact, hardly any of the male characters in the film seem to look to Molly’s character beyond what they can get out of her.
After the idealist staffer learns Molly’s secret, his demeanor totally changes. When Molly begs him not make a call on her phone to find out who called her (which he does, prompted by playful jealousy), he doesn’t listen. And when he knows, he immediately drills her for information. She is no longer a twenty year old woman, but a potential train crash for his candidate. The next day, ideal staffer writes a note for her to read, rather than talk directly to her, then shreds the note in front of her, and meets her a stairway to give her money to pay for the abortion he tells her to have immediately. He takes her to the abortion clinic, and drops her off. Molly looks devastated to be left on her own, but idealist staffer’s response is to use physical affection before leaving-a kiss on the forehead. This is the first time we see idealist staffer use affection since he discovered her secret. He uses it to push her towards the politically-expedient solution. However, when idealistic staffer is fired, then he completes forgets about Molly. She is left waiting and finally has to find her own way back to the hotel.
The treatment of Molly by the men in the film seems so brutal and harsh. But it seems very unsurprising when humans become less important than causes, lusts, or props. Molly was a young woman who wasn’t protected by any of the older men around her.