iIt’s probably unfair of me to dismiss The Offer (Paramount +), about making The Godfather, by the memories of all those guys you meet in your late teens to mid – 20s who use knowledge of the film and its tradition as a proxy for personality. Or at least it would be if The Offer did not play as it was completely made by and for them.
Everything everyone ever knew about The Godfather is here, lovingly recreated in whatever detail The Lore also just considered. Here, Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) watches the lines around the bookstore, while people stand in line to buy the groundbreaking gangster thriller he set out to save himself from bankruptcy and a battle of the boys to whom he owed money. Here’s a nervous unprepared Al Ruddy (Miles Teller) – he just hit the bestseller on the plane! – pull what would become his one-line pitch to the owner of Paramount out of the bag at the last second and convince him to green light the film. “I’m going to make an ice blue, scary movie about people you love.” “That’s brilliant!” Here’s Sinatra (Frank John Hughes) telling Puzo in Chasen’s restaurant to base Johnny Fontane’s character on him (although in this version, presumably for aesthetic reasons, he looks up from his plate while doing so it spoils the feeling of perfect contempt the often told story conveys, but in this way you get to see the face of the actor). Here is Brando’s legendary not-a-screen test screen test. And so on.
The rest is largely non-Godfather-specific clichés, as we are determined by the film’s origin story run. Puzo’s agent advises him to “write what you know! … Have you ever thought about writing a mafia book?”, Which is topped with Titanic’s “Something Picasso?” Scene for subtlety. “We can not pursue what we think the audience wants to see. We have to show the audience what it wants to see!” And “We can not play through the book – we write the damn book!” It’s like collecting one detached piece of William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade and Syd Field’s first designs and pasting it into a loose-leaf binder and calling it a script.
In 10 hours (time in which you, incidentally, could watch all three Godfather movies AND make a start with the director’s commentary) we’ll be shown how Paramount bought the rights to Puzo’s book cheaply, and then found themselves with a desirable bit of IP on their hands as the book shot to the top of the charts and stayed there. But first it had to fight with the studio head to get it made (the last few gangster movies were flops), finding a director who was ready to take on the unmodern subject (young upstart Francis Ford Coppola is convinced – “It’s a metaphor for capitalism, for the American dream! ”) and then he must strive to realize his vision.All this time, the actual mafia takes exception to its image in the book and sets up the Italian-American Civil Rights League to prevent that the film is made.Crumbs.
All of this is displayed without the hassle of being a metaphor for anything. Nor to make it the specific universal, or anything other than a hagiographic biopic of a beloved film. It gives producer Al Ruddy a more prominent role than you might expect – he takes on a Forrest Gump air, as more and more pivotal moments are brought by him and him alone – which have something to do with the fact that Ruddy a producer on The supply, too.
Because we’re in Hollywood in the late ’60s and early’ 70s, much of the action is set at industry festivals where producers do deals and trade favors while stroking a variety of dolly birds. But because it’s also 2022, we have the Strong female character of Bettie McCartt (Ted Lasso’s Juno Temple) as Ruddy’s omniscient secretary. She, unfortunately, is not much to do other than hastily fill in her boss in remarkable details about the company, love life and credit records of the people he is about to meet on the way to meet her, and the charismatic, capable temple remains underused.
That 10-hour spread could allow for a great story to be told about the film company then and now, or about how hard and soft power operates in the world, or – yes – for an interrogation of the American dream and all its opposites. Instead, everything becomes flat – including the stars and legendary characters like Robert Evans (though Matthew Goode does a good job with what he has given) – and into the sole role of mythologizing an already entirely mythologized subject. Ryan Murphy meets Mad Men without the pile-driving stories of the former, nor the lean, crooked intelligence of the latter. Try harder, boys.