Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Godfather

Monday, August 25, 2008

Oh boy. Where to start. A while back I ashamedly admitted that I had never seen The Godfather Part 2, my reason being that, um... I wasn't really a big fan of the first film.

I know, I know. Pretty much every human being on the planet agrees that The Godfather is a great movie. I recognize that I am clearly in the wrong. But let me explain myself a little.

I had only seen The Godfather one time. And the thing I noticed about it was I didn't feel like it was the first time I saw it. The film is so deeply ingrained in our culture that every scene was familiar... it was a collection of moments I had already heard about. There was no impact.

Like I said though, I'm aware that I'm wrong. And since I'm kommitted 2 klassiks, I decided that it was high time I watched the entire Godfather trilogy. So I now present you with Godfather Mondays for the next 3 weeks, to fill in the gap left in my heart now that Rambo Mondays are over.

I figured this time, having seen The Godfather once before, I could get over the fact that I knew everything that was going to happen, because everyone knows everything that happens the second time through. It would be an actual second viewing, instead of my original sort of 1.5 times viewing. And I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, this is a pretty damn good yarn, well made, well acted, and obviously iconic. Pretty strong stuff.

I still didn't exactly love it.

I'm sure I'm going to sound like I'm just trying to be contrarian, but let me promise you that I'm at least not intentionally trying to do that. Maybe subconsciously, I don't know, but I'm not disagreeing with the general public just for the sake of disagreeing. I had a handful of serious issues with the film.

For one, the portrayal of women. All the female characters feel hazily defined. Diane Keaton disappears without a mention, only to reemerge whenever the plot requires. She has reservations about Michael's family, but then suddenly she's married to him even though she seems opposed to what he does. And then there's Michael sister, who isn't really given a personality, is almost entirely defined by the fact that her husband beats her, and then is expected to carry a big emotional scene near the end where she calls Michael out on his villainry. And maybe worst of all is the woman Michael marries in Sicily, who has almost no dialogue of substance, yet we just sort of accept that Michael loves her, and then she gets killed and is never mentioned again.

In fact, I have a problem with the whole Sicilian chunk of the movie. I understand that it's about Michael becoming closer to his roots, which will influence him in taking up the mantle of godfather, but ultimately it all feels too long and has little bearing on anything. As I mentioned above, there's his underdeveloped marriage that feels like little more than a plot device. But for me it really felt like there was a lack of progression, not just in terms of the subplot that doesn't add up to much, but in terms of Michael's character.

Which leads me to my final complaint: Michael Corleone's character arc. I love the idea of him going from disassociated from his family to becoming the new don, like it was his fate or something. But it's not very well transitioned. For the first hour or so, Michael is little more than a peripheral character, mainly defined by his objection to the family business. Then, after his father is shot, he's suddenly on board and raring to go. He's in all the way, no sense of hesitation. I think in the end his story is supposed to be sort of tragic or dark, but it doesn't really come across. We never see how a good man becomes bad, we don't see him fretting too much over his decisions, or debating his values or anything. One minute he's a good man, the next he's a killer. It's like they skipped the transition, which to me would be the interesting part.

All of which isn't to say I didn't very much enjoy this movie. The strength of the performances and the filmmaking and the immensely quotable screenplay really covers up a lot of these problems. And if nothing else, this movie is incredibly watchable. I am genuinely excited to see part 2 next week, and from what I gather it's considered better than this one.

Well, like I said, I'm not trying to be contrarian here. Still though, I'd love it if this pissed some of my friends off and they wrote in to tell me how wrong I am and that I'm an asshole.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

Man, its just not fun when you invite it.

Also, if you didn't like the portrayal of women in this one you'll have some serious problems with the others too. Coppola (of "Jack" fame) keeps portraying them as moral compasses but never fleshes them out enough for them to work.
Anyway, I love this movie but love the second one even more. The character arc is a little better and the plot is more intricate.