“Every story has three sides: your side, mine and the truth. And nobody lies. Shared memories each serve in a different way.” — Robert Evans, The child remains in the picture
†[to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies]†
Come and listen to a story of a man named Bob
Runnin’ Par-a-mount Studios, that was his job
Need a producer for a hot prop-er-ty
So he called a man named Al Rud-dyyyyy…
This is unfortunately not the theme for The offer† The creators behind the Paramount+ limited series on the making of the godfather have opted for a bargain basement re-run the crazy men opening score, which aims for an overwhelming sense of guys misbehaving with vintage glamour. In the spirit of truth in advertising, we wish they had used something more sitcom-like. A 10-episode megillah charting the wild, wacky, weirder-than-fiction origin story of one of the greatest (if not the best) movies ever made, this 1970s flashback tries to accomplish a lot at once: a biopic, a no-biz-esque showbiz tell-all, a backstage drama, a workplace farce, a meta-mob epic , a “difficult men” anti-hero saga, a parable of female empowerment, and a scrappy triumph-of-the-underdog tale smeared with sweat and canned spaghetti sauce. The only way it really works, though, is as a parody of prestige- tv.If the story of the godfatherThe tumultuous birth and subsequent blockbuster success teaches us something, it’s that somehow victory can defy the odds and be snatched from the jaws of defeat. This misguided attempt to rethink that project proves the opposite to be true in equal measure. It will start streaming on April 28. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
It’s worth remembering that Evans is quoting at the top, and not just because Paramount’s legendary studio head—portrayed with equal parts oil and vinegar by Matthew Goode—is one of the many great players vying for pole position. There’s also Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo), the bestselling author who heeds the Tinseltown siren to adapt his novel; Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler), the bearded author hired to provide bona fide Italian-American; Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), the crime boss and founder of the Italian-American Civil Rights League, who goes from being an enemy to a key ally of the film; Charles Bludhorn (Halo’s Burn Gorman), the head of Gulf + Western pulling his hair out over this runaway production; and Barry Lapidus (Colin Hanks), a business executive who is fed up… these crazy kids trying to make a movie without thinking about the bottom line! A large number of peripheral characters, from Evans’ counselor Peter Bart to a charismatic crook from the Colombo family named Caesar, also go in and out of the picture.
No, that maxim about storytelling, memory, and truth is especially relevant with regard to: the offer, because what sounds like an ensemble piece on paper is dominated by the ‘my side’ perspective of one person, and only one person. It goes without saying that Al Ruddy was a key member of The Godfather‘s team behind the scenes – according to the show, the former Rand Corporation employee hobbled his way to making The Heroes of Hogan for CBS and then talked his way into producing what would become a landmark American film. He is also a producer of this series, and although The offer name checks Ernest Lupinacci’s book The Godfather Gang: In Hollywood, everything is personalthe primary basis for this recount is “Based on Al Ruddy’s experience making” The godfather.According to this account, it’s Ruddy (Miles Teller), along with his trusty assistant/mover/shaker Bettye McCart (Juno Temple), who really did all the important things.
Ruddy was the one, we’re told, who created the wedding scene as the opening. Ruddy was the one who insisted that Coppola was the only director who could make it work. Ruddy was the one who dodged Mickey Cohen’s bullets and made ethical compromises so they could film the Sicily sequences. Ruddy personally brokered every deal and insisted that Marlon Brando be cast, either hell or high water. Ruddy has personally prevented a mafia war, narrowly averted every possible disaster, possibly invented a cure for cancer and probably saved the whales. A failed relationship subplot paints Al less as an inattentive partner than a man married to his job – he’s got his demons and can be utterly horrible to friends and loved ones, but honey, he’s so good at his job! (Does this sound familiar, TV viewers?) It’s really surprising that the credits don’t list Teller’s co-stars as “Ruddy’s Director,” “Ruddy’s Star,” “Ruddy’s Boss,” “Ruddy’s Girlfriend,” and “Ruddy’s Mob Buddy.” This isn’t just a print-the-legend take on movie history, it’s a Ruddyography that turns a perfect storm of collaborators into supporting players in the making of The Ruddather.
All this Ruddy-willing-and-able-knock-back would have been acceptably one-sided revisionism, just another addition to the ever-expanding cottage industry of Godfather lore — so much of which is zealously contradicted or outright ignored here (unsurprisingly, very few other contestants were consulted firsthand) — if these 10 episodes had anything else of interest to, well, offer. But Ruddy’s elevation to the king-emperor of Corleone Mountain is surrounded by what appears to be an increasing number of bad choices and a complete lack of quality control. Say what you will about Ruddy, Evans, Colombo and Bludhorn: they were complicated characters, full of more than just noise and fury, and here they are reduced to one-dimensional archetypes. Counter seems more MIA than usual, that is saying something; he’s best when he’s with Temple, but even her patented “salt-and-sass second-banana act” can’t convince him to be fully present in their scenes together. (This man should the next being Robert Mitchum, so why not?) Fogler’s Coppola is fine, although it doesn’t impress much, and you feel sorry for the young actors who are forced to do impersonations of Brando, Pacino, Sinatra, etc; that line from another beloved movie, about “a wax museum with a wrist,” comes to mind. Only Goode seems to be having fun, walking around like Hollywood royalty while everything is wrapped up in Evans’ patrician-with-a-head cold voice. And even he sinks deep into the quicksand of The offer‘s indulgent New Hollywood nostalgia.
Many of the familiar anecdotal characters get hit, from Ruddy’s one-sentence pitch to Bludhorn (“It’s an ice-cold thriller about people you love”) to Brando’s casual, transformative screen test, but they’re strung together in a way. that all too often feels haphazard and flat. Michael Tolkin, who co-wrote and co-produced all 10 episodes, is no slouch when it comes to screenplay writing (The player, the incredibly underrated The recording) or serialized stories (Escape at Dannemora† Which just randomizes the lazy use of wink references Godfather quotes and the endless recycling of gut-wrenching showbiz clichés – “We don’t play by the book, we write the damn book!” “We can’t chase what we think an audience wants to see, we have to show the audience what it is needs see!” – that much more confusing. Each person will have their breaking point in this series, and for this writer, it’s a series where someone sees a horse prop. “Horses are supposed to represent courage and freedom,” she says, “and their chop off your head…that’s America over there.”
It’s honestly impossible to know if we should take that string of words in that order seriously any more than we are The offer Deriding Paramount lackeys by declaring that a V-shaped composition of Corleones on a poster is a marketing “kiss of death”… and then using the exact same formation on their own poster. Miracles really never stop. There is such a rich story to be gained from creating a classic tale of family, crime, country, history and the movies, and such a huge missed opportunity in what the people behind this series have come up with. Shared memories each serve in a different way, but everyone collectively remembers the making of the godfather as an inspiring pinnacle of American cinema. Now we can all say it inspired a forgettable, godforsaken low in television as well.