“Society must be better than the individual.” These words are spoken by Governor Mike Morris during the fictional Ohio presidential primary at the heart of The Ides of March. The line is also the fundamental message of the film. Interesting, considering Morris (played by George Clooney, who directs the film) is little more than a secondary character, a shadowy collection of lofty progressive ideals delivered with a friendly grin and great hair. Don’t let the trailer fool you; this is not a political thriller. It’s a character drama, as evidenced by that very important line. The film asks the questions: how does society better itself if it’s run by corrupt individuals? Does corruption reach everyone in the end? This movie provided lots of things to think about beyond the typical talking points of other political films. The film does clip along at a brisk pace through the crucial events, however, carried on the shoulders of one very capable (if at times grim-faced) Ryan Gosling. He plays a campaign consultant to Clooney’s Morris, a talented optimist too young to tough it out with the jaded, middle-aged flacks on the campaign, and yet a little too old to mess around with young intern Molly (played with equal parts maturity and mischief by Evan Rachel Wood). When events start snowballing, it’s not difficult to predict where the film is going to go. Still, it’s worth a watch to see some of Hollywood’s finest — including excellent turns by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti — tackle their parts with such gusto, despite the lingering cynicism that hangs over everything. What really got to me about The Ides of March is the duality that’s set up between Gosling and Wood’s characters, who both find themselves in similar situations; they make choices that they must be held accountable for. And yet only one of the characters is truly punished for their actions, while the other reaps the benefits of selling out. I was left thinking long and hard about this movie, not because of the ideological or political aspects (which are basically rendered irrelevant through the course of the film), but because of how harshly the film treats its most naive characters. If you’re looking to take in a film this holiday season, you have a lot of more family-friendly, joy-to-the-world options. But if you’re looking for something you can sink your teeth into, give this one a chance. I guarantee, no matter what your political leanings, you will find something to think about.