The Offer

STREAMING REVIEW:

Paramount+;
Drama;
Not rated;
Stars Miles Teller, Matthew Goode, Dan Fogler, Burn Gorman, Colin Hanks, Giovanni Ribisi, Juno Temple, Patrick Gallo.

There are a few ways to interpret “The Offer.” On the surface, it’s the story of the quest to achieve a creative vision no matter what it takes. From another perspective, it’s a studio, Paramount, celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of its greatest achievements, The Godfather, by sensationalizing a unique period of Hollywood history.

The details as presented in the 10-part limited series series now streaming in its entirety on Paramount+ likely lean more on the side of embellishment than fact, punching up the outlandishness beyond the point of believability in some cases. But that hardly matters when the end result is as entertaining a guilty pleasure as it turned out to be.

The particulars of the making of the “Godfather” films are easy enough to come by, given the plethora of bonus materials on DVD and Blu-ray releases of the trilogy over the years, not to mention countless books on the subject. The primary inspiration for “The Offer” is credited to the experiences of producer Albert S. Ruddy, thus making him the central figure for the series.

Ruddy (Miles Teller) is introduced as a bored programmer at the Rand Corporation who, thanks to a chance encounter, ends up creating “Hogan’s Heroes” for CBS (in truth, Ruddy’s Hollywood experience stretches back before his time at Rand).

Wanting to break into film, Ruddy convinces Paramount boss Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to give him a shot with a low-budget film starring Robert Redford.

Meanwhile, Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) writes The Godfather, which turns out to be one of the best-selling novels of all time. Paramount owns the rights to make a movie version, but parent company Gulf + Western doesn’t want to risk too much money on yet another “gangster picture,” so they stick Ruddy on it.

Ruddy immediately breaks convention by hiring Puzo to write the screenplay (Hollywood for the longest time had taboos about creatives crossing mediums — TV to movies, novels to screenplays, etc.). When Puzo’s efforts stall, Ruddy brings in Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler) to direct — another controversial move given Coppola’s disastrous track record as a director despite an Oscar win for writing Patton. Coppola is reluctant at first, but agrees to the project on the basis of bringing authenticity to an epic story about an Italian family.

Sticking Puzo and Coppola in a house together to hash out the screenplay (even though in real life they supposedly worked on it separately), Ruddy must then deal with a bigger obstacle to the film — opposition from the mafia itself, who see the book as a slur. Frank Sinatra is particularly offended by a crooner character in the novel, and vows to shut down the production.

Now supposedly thrust into the middle of a mob war against Hollywood, Ruddy makes pals with mob boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), which gets some heat off the film but doesn’t please the corporate brass at Gulf + Western or Paramount. Meanwhile, Colombo’s support of the film draws out some of his enemies within the mob who seek to replace him.

And so the series continues as a tug-of-war between artistic integrity, mafia greed and the corporate bottom line. The mob influence on the production was probably played up to draw parallels to the movie’s storyline, while the show contains no shortage of references to nostalgia touchpoints from the era audiences will recognize, from other movies to some of the actors up for roles in the film.

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As with most docudramas, certain events and characters are condensed and conflated for the sake of the narrative. For instance, Colombo rival Joe Gallo is shown being taken out because his attempts to extort the production threaten the budget to film in Sicily, when in reality he wasn’t killed until after the movie was released.

The cast is mostly solid, and Teller does a great job carrying the load as Ruddy, though his portrayal as a miracle worker and solver of all problems seems to be a bit overblown. Ribisi, on the other hand, is so over-the-top as Colombo he seems like he’s on a different show. But the standout is Goode as Robert Evans, so completely transforming into the iconic Hollywood executive that it might as well be Evans playing himself. If Paramount+ doesn’t greenlight a docudrama of Evans’ autobiography The Kid Stays in the Picture starring Goode, it will be missing out.

Through Evans, “The Offer” gets to indulge a bit in telling the story of Paramount in general in the early 1970s, when he was brought in by Gulf + Western boss Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman) to turn the studio’s fortunes around. As such, the show delves a bit into the success of Love Story, starring Evans’ wife Ali MacGraw, and how their marriage disintegrated when he started to focus on The Godfather, and she ended up in the arms of Steven McQueen on the set of The Getaway. Evans also keeps an eye on his next project, Chinatown, despite his corporate overlords wanting to dump it as something they “don’t understand.” (Corporate stooges being idiots when it comes to art is a big theme of the show.)

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Those familiar with The Kid Stays in the Picture (the book or the 2002 documentary adaptation of it narrated by Evans) might note a number of discrepancies between Evans’ own accounts of these events and how “The Offer” portrays them. For instance, in the show, Coppola and Ruddy are fighting with Gulf + Western over how long The Godfather is, preferring the nearly three-hour version we all know and love today, while the bean-counters want to maximize screenings with a two-hour version (a classic debate in Hollywood — the best-known recent example involving the 2017 Justice League movie). Evans has to swoop in from a drunken stupor over his failed marriage to save the longer cut, thus sending the film on a path toward Oscar glory.

In Evans’ own account, Coppola turned in a two-hour version, and Evans ordered him to recut it to make it longer, thus delaying the film from a Christmas 1971 release to March 1972 (a delay mentioned in the show that doesn’t make much sense if the longer cut already existed). Conjecture over the editing of The Godfather has occupied much discussion over the years, and Coppola’s own accounts would likely fill further volumes.

For however inaccurate it may be, “The Offer” is still first and foremost a love letter to The Godfather, and should only serve to build on fans’ appreciation of that classic film, and a love of cinema in general.

Paramount Sets Dec. 8 Blu-ray Disc, Digital Release Date for New Edit, Restoration of ‘The Godfather Part III’

Paramount Home Entertainment has set a Dec. 8 date for the Blu-ray Disc and digital debut of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone — a new edit and restoration of The Godfather Part III.

The rebranded version of the third and final film in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” trilogy “achieves director-screenwriter Coppola and screenwriter Puzo’s original vision for the finale, which has been meticulously restored for the finest presentation of the Corleone saga’s last chapter,” the studio said in early September, when it first announced the project.

The 1990 release of the third film was maligned by critics as not living up to the standard set by the first two films in the franchise, which won the Oscar for Best Picture for the 1972 and 1974 movie years, respectively.

Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone is an acknowledgment of Mario’s and my preferred title and our original intentions for what became The Godfather Part III,” Coppola said in a Sept. 3 statement. “For this version of the finale, I created a new beginning and ending, and rearranged some scenes, shots and music cues. With these changes and the restored footage and sound, to me, it is a more appropriate conclusion to The Godfather and The Godfather Part II, and I’m thankful to Jim Gianopulos and Paramount for allowing me to revisit it.”

The Blu-ray presentation will include the newly restored and re-edited film, an exclusive introduction by Coppola, and access to a digital copy of the film.

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Coppola’s three-part movie adaptation of Puzo’s novel chronicles the rise and fall of the Corleone mob family. Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, The Godfather Part III was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film follows Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in his 60s as he seeks to free his family from crime and find a suitable successor to his empire.

Coppola and his production company American Zoetrope worked from a 4K scan of the original negative to undertake a frame-by-frame restoration of both the new Mario Puzo’s The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone and the original The Godfather Part III. Zoetrope and Paramount’s restoration team began by searching for more than 50 original takes to replace lower-resolution opticals in the original negative. This process took more than six months and involved sifting through 300 cartons of negative.  American Zoetrope worked diligently to repair scratches, stains, and other anomalies that could not be addressed previously due to technology constraints, while enhancements were made to the original 5.1 audio mix. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, midway through the project all work — even the search for the negative — shifted to the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles and was completed remotely.

“Mr. Coppola oversaw every aspect of the restoration while working on the new edit, ensuring that the film not only looks and sounds pristine, but also meets his personal standards and directorial vision,” said Andrea Kalas, SVP of Paramount Archives.

On Rotten Tomatoes, The Godfather Part III has a 69% favorable rating from critics and a 78% favorable rating from audiences. This compares to 98% for The Godfather from both segments and 98% from critics and 97% from audiences for The Godfather Part II.