The Offer is a miniseries on the Paramount streaming service about the behind-the-scenes story of the making of Paramount’s classic film The Godfather in 1972. I’ve watched parts of it while falling asleep, so I don’t have too much to say about it: it seems fairly well made although less than galvanizing.
On the other hand, it’s pretty unusual for 2023 in that it’s a seemingly honest recapitulation of white men making good decisions.
It’s pretty funny. For example, it reveals that the reason Marlon Brando was so enthusiastic about playing Don Corleone was that he’d heard Frank Sinatra might get the role (in the TV series, a really beautiful woman explains to Bob Evans, played by William F. Buckley–like British actor Matthew Goode, that the solution to all his Godfather problems is to get Sinatra to play the lead role, which he humors her into believing he takes seriously), and Brando (played superbly by Justin Chambers of Grey’s Anatomy) really resents Sinatra for criticizing his singing of a song in Guys and Dolls. (That’s one of my recurrent themes: that Brando destroyed the film version of Guys and Dolls by insisting he play the main singing role while Sinatra played the main acting role.)
On the other hand, as great as this scene is, it only hints at the beginning of Brando transforming himself into Don Corleone, and then cuts to the visitors being ushered out onto the sidewalk and marveling about Brando’s performance for them.
Come on, show us all of how Brando did his transformation.
The one thing that struck me about it is that it’s unusual for a drama (although perhaps not for a documentary) in that it’s the story of bright, talented people like director Francis Ford Coppola and studio boss Bob Evans repeatedly clashing vociferously over what to do and then… agreeing upon a really good decision.
For example, for the key role of Michael Corleone, Evans wants the up-and-coming star James Caan while Coppola wants a little-known stage actor named Al Pacino. They argue across the course of several episodes, and eventually decide [Spoiler Alert] that Pacino will be Michael while Caan will play his brother Sonny. And that turns out, of course, to be a terrific choice.
In fact, just about everything the makers of The Godfather decide to do turns out to be just about the best decisions they made in their long, well-documented lives.
On the other hand, that’s not as inherently dramatic as, say, Coppola going bankrupt making his 1980s flop One from the Heart or kind of going nuts with megalomania in the jungle like Kurtz while making Apocalypse Now but still eventually emerging triumphant.
At present, 83-year-old Coppola is attempting a comeback with an expensive sci-fi film called Megalopolis, whose financing required him to sell part of his lucrative wine business. That sounds pretty dramatic (i.e., likely to be a disaster… or, who knows, maybe not… maybe FFC will come up with a worthy successor to his 1970s movies. Isn’t pretty to think so?)
I’ve sometimes wondered whether Serious Dramatic Art is overly pessimistic because humans are wired to respond so strongly to the catharsis stemming from the inevitable exposure of a great man’s Tragic Flaw. As Aristotle observed, that kind of thing really works on stage.
And yet, most of the big things in a culture (e.g., The Godfather in American film history) weren’t really that tragic, they’re more examples of those unusual passages when everything happened to go right.