Trilogy Overview – An Overview of The Godfather Part III

The Matrix Revolutions was relatively easy; people never believed that it was any sort of success and have commented on its failures many times before.  Besides, The Matrix as a whole is something that is dangerously close to appearing out of date, making it more likely that the trilogy will be viewed as a whole in the future.

That is not the case with The Godfather .  The first two films are among the most beloved in history.  The Godfather Part III is reviled in modern day society, to the point where people forget it was actually critically praised upon its release. It was nominated for Best Picture in 1990 and still retains a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes (granted, it’s only at 66%, but you see my point).  There are many who believe that the film is not only a blight upon The Godfather, but on film as a whole and erases any significant contributions Francis Ford Coppola ever had.  Is it really bad enough to cause such damage to Coppola’s career?

The film takes place in 1979 and follows an aging Michael Corleone as he is attempting to finally break away from the mob life that has absorbed his soul. He is finally trying to go straight. He is being given numerous accolades from the Vatican and the city of New York.  He is trying to repair his relationship with Kay (Diane Keaton) and his children.  However, due to the presence of people like Joey Zasa (Joe Mantegna, famous as the voice of Fat Tony on The Simpsons) Michael is unable to leave the underworld life that he is trying to, which leads to several crises in the new life he is trying to create.

At first, the film is not a bad one. Not as good as the first two parts, certainly, but then few films are.  Besides, this is not meant to be a comparison; this is meant to see if the film is good enough on its own. And it is in a certain way; this film could be about any aging gangster who is looking to come to terms with his past. Al Pacino gives a fabulous performance, and seems completely at ease in the role of Michael Corleone.  There is a lot of “fan service” – that is, referencing certain characters for the sake of pleasing fans.  But then, it also helps create an expansive universe that we know many characters have inhabited and have been touched by the Corleone family. The film also retains the sort of style that attempts to transcend the gangster pictures of old (that slowly is coming back into fashion).  The violence is not stylized or even that well executed – it is mostly sloppy and deaths are not given any special significance.  Violence is merely a way to get what you want, not a way to give off a tough guy facade. In addition, there are some fantastic references to tie the narrative into the real world; most notably the death of Pope John Paul I and the Vatican Banking Scandal. All in all, this is still a tightly executed film, featuring fantastic performances and even better direction.

But then we get to the real problem with the film – it is one that everyone has commented on, even when it is released.  It was a career erasing problem that represents some of the worst acting in a major Hollywood motion picture.  It’s name is Sofia Coppola.

 

Never a paper towel when you need one; the woman who destroyed The Godfather

Words cannot describe how atrocious her performance is. She plays Corleone’s daughter, who is romanced by Vincent Mancini.  (Spoiler) She is killed at the end by a bullet meant for Michael.  The above screen capture is from that scene.  Now, I want you all to do something – look at her face.  Does she look like someone near death?  Does she look like she is in pain?  No, she looks rather annoyed.  That was the most egregious problem. All throughout the film, she appears to try and get the camera to focus on her, rather than on Al Pacino or even Andy Gracia. I do not understand why. Throughout her entire performance, she seems positively bored to be there.  Considering that Mary Corleone is such an important character (and part of Michael’s redemption and fate), it was so bizarre that Coppola did not go with a better actress.  Even Winona Ryder (the original choice for the role) would have been a better choice.  The film was missing a giant piece, and Sofia Coppola was not the piece that the film required.

If the focus was Michael Corleone and how much he had fallen from grace, this would have been an effective epilogue.  There is a major problem; Coppola did not have the passion he once had and tried to use nepotism to inject it.  The result was calamatous, and it is one that has all but destroyed the film’s reputation. See teh film for Al Pacino’s masterful performance and the tight scripting, but do not expect the film to be an all time classic.

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