Look How They Massacred The Story Of My Boy, ‘The Godfather’

In the history of cinema, one of the most prescient and brilliantly searing indictments of Hollywood, and of the inherent unimaginativeness pervasive in studio execs, comes via Robert Altman’s 1992 Tinseltown satire”The Player.“Specifically, the scene where Buck Henry tries to sell shallow studio exec Tim Robbins the banal idea for “The Graduate II.” Hilarious, biting, and sharp (the exec loves it, naturally), the moment speaks volumes about Hollywood’s predisposition for playing it safe, superficial sequels, and keeping that gravy train running.

READ MORE: Welcome The New Trend Of ‘Prestige IP’: Studios Are Mining Their Vaults To Keep Franchises Going

Cut to 2022, and studios—still insatiably desperate to leverage their intellectual property and libraries in every imaginable way—have invented yet another micro-niche lane for ForeverContent™—Prestige IP, mining their vaults and keeping a classic franchise going by telling the tale of how that movie was made. Yep, that means there’s a making-of”Chinatown” film in the works and two projects about the making of Francis Ford Coppola‘s “The Godfather.”

Now, Altman’s “The Player” and that wickedly delicious Academy Award-nominated screenplay, is written by Michael Tolkin. So, it is with dark “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain” irony and deeply depressing energy that Tolkin is also the creator and writer behind, “The Offer,” Paramount+‘s banal, Wikipedia-style greatest hits mini-series telling of the making of Coppola’s classic mob drama about greed, power, legacy, family and the dark side of the American dream.

READ MORE: Oscar Isaac & Jake Gyllenhaal To Star In A Film About The Making Of ‘The Godfather’ From Director Barry Levinson

Initially shaped as a would-be celebratory tale of roll-up-your-sleeves gumption and the “maverick” producers behind the film, after ten overlong episodes that absolutely exhaust any enthusiasm or goodwill the filmmakers might have increased for this story, what “ The Offer” really resembles is something more akin to self-fellatio, a self-congratulatory pat on the back for those that pulled it off (as if by bravely re-telling the story, note-by-fucking-note, this Cliff notes TV version also deserves some kind of award).

If “The Offer” has good intentions, it’s telling the behind-the-scenes story of the unsung hero instrumental in bringing “The Godfather” to life. No, it’s not the legendary “The Kid Stays In The Picture” producer Robert Evans (played by Matthew Goode), though he is part of the tale, it’s not ‘Godfather’ author Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) and it’s not director Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler), it’s under-acknowledged ‘Godfather’ producer Albert S.Ruddy (Miles Teller).

And while Ruddy certainly hasn’t gotten his due where Hollywood lore is concerned—and or he’s been deeply overshadowed by Evans’ more glitzy, famous presence over the years—what unremarkably ensues is a kind of broad and tacky ‘Godfather’ dress-up cosplay with zero subtext, nothing to say and very little to aspire to other than telling an increasingly self-satisfied tale of how ‘The Godfather’ was made.

And yes, some of that can be interesting and or mildly entertaining. If anything, it’ll help put the layman, “what does a producer really do?” question to rest, as the answer “The Offer” accurately provides is everything. One million problems, obstacles, challenges, and headaches arise, and Ruddy, sometimes with the help of Evans, or his dutiful assistant Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple), by hook or by crook or by the seat of his pants, solves them one by one. As the eventual king of remedying logistical nightmares, Ruddy corrects problems big and small, from outwitting the uninspired, tight-fisted Paramount execs—Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) and Barry Lapidus (colin hanks)—to cozy up to the mob and one of their leaders, Joe Colombo (John Ribisi), so their teamsters and Italian-American Civil Rights League, paranoid about “The Godfather” hurting Italians’ image, won’t shut down the film. If you love “The Godfather,” are these details interesting? Sure, a little, but captivating TV? Hardly, especially when the series eventually feels like running down a laundry list of its famous problems.

An initially comprehensive, but ultimately fatiguing stem-to-stern telling of “The Godfather” production, the story begins even before Paramount options the best-selling book and goes all the way to Ruddy on stage at the Oscars (god forbid there’s a sequel , it even hints about “The Godfather Part II”).

Ruddy is depicted as a get-the-job-done blue-collar guy with a love for movies, but also a rebel, a disruptor even (!). Originally a programmer at the Rand Corporation, he lucks into Hollywood by a chance meeting and his outsider charming chutzpah means he doesn’t really know the rules and won’t bother following them. This means, at times, going behind the backs of friends and allies, often tempting fate by inviting the wrath of Bludorn, Lapidus, and even his boss Robert Evans, who took a chance on a mostly unknown producer because of that plucky attitude. To Ruddy, it’s all worth it in the name of the picture, the art, but it’s borderline sociopathic behavior at times that the series seems to applaud because, you know, ‘Godfather.’

His inherent arrogance is well-channeled by Miles Teller, known for his, how should we say, healthy, self-assured self-image, but the gruff voice Teller adopts to impress tough-guy can-do mien on the audience, on top of his many velor suits and Carl Sagan turtlenecks, is rather comical, and very overcompensating for various shortcomings.

Few actors understand the assignment, but Matthew Goode as the velvety charming cad that was Evans is delectable. He manages to navigate the camp inherent to this world of legacy-era pretend and use it to his advantage in a deliriously entertaining manner. Burn Gorman as the notoriously miserly Austrian Charlie Bluhdorn is also pretty great, and Anthony Ippolito nails the quiet, nervous intensity and anxiety of Al Pacinobut the rest of the cast isn’t so lucky.

Giovanni Ribisi ages himself up as an overweight, balding 50-something gangster by sounding like he’s gargling Drano the entire time and many of the other imitations are laughable mimicries (to be fair, Dan Fogler as Coppola isn’t as embarrassing as one might think ).

All that said, if you’re here to see some kind of ‘Godfather’ classic re-enactments and caricature depictions of Marlon BrandoPacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, and Diane Keaton, you’ve mostly come to the wrong place. If “The Offer” does anything right, it’s not really trying to recreate the magic of the original film. Instead, the series wisely sticks to all the nutty stories of the making of the film, and yes, some are almost too good to be true.

Adequately directed by Dexter Fletcher(tea Alan Arkin-directed episodes are the best) the main ‘Offer’ problem—beyond its overall superficiality and lack of substance—is that it wears out its welcome. The appeal and proximity to “The Godfather” will help you initially suspend your disbelief, forgive unintentionally funny voices, pardon broad writing and hokey soliloquies about the power of film, and excuse garish costumes and waxy performances. But by the time it’s reached the midway point—and you’ve seen all that the series has to give and all that’s left is an ending you already know—whatever eagerness or curiosity you might’ve initially had quickly evaporates, making you resent all you forgave.

“An essential element of any art is risk,” Francis Ford Coppola once famously said. “If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before?” Yeah, that leaves. [C-]

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