Criticism of ‘The Offer’: the making of the TV program ‘The Godfather’ is a bad IP mining
At least Matthew Goode understands the mission.
What makes the storytelling so crucial to society? What transforms movies and television experiments? Experiences that are worth spending hours and hours, days after days, years after years of our precious lives to appreciate? Robert Evans in “The Offer”, played with a strong charisma by Matthew Goode, has the answer. Addressing a board of investors, the vice chairman of Paramount Pictures called for a stay of execution, despite the difficulties of the company, highlighting the difference between what he does and what these “titans of industry “do as work.
“You have to feed their soul,” he says, walking around the boardroom in his big, black, block glasses and tan, bright, California suit. “How do you do that? Well, it’s hard. Right now, America’s soul is shattered. […] People do not trust politics or big business, then what the Americans can admire? Well, I’ll tell you: Paramount. Take a look at the logo. We are the top of the mountain. We’re the fucking Statue of Liberty – because you can give us your weary, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, and we’ll give them two hours of respite from the harsh realities of this world. We will entertain them. We will give them the escape. We will feed their souls until they are ready to burst.
It’s a good speech, and it does the trick. The board of directors, led by Charles Bluhdorn (Burn Gorham), decides to keep Paramount in their portfolio, and thus keep Evans as its leader. Charlie is even thinking back to Evans’ words when he goes to share the news to the set of Paramount’s next picture, “The Godfather.” Watching Francis Ford Coppola and Al Pacino shoot an early scene from the future classic, the Gulf & Western exec is moved by what he sees. Evans’ voiceover plays in his memory: “We’ll feed their souls,” recalls, and his cold, fortunate soul grows three sizes.
Once again, it’s a good speech. Too good, really, since the series it’s written for is a soulless, tasteless piece of Content™ that’s about as far from “art” as professionally produced television can get. Evans’ words are an apt description of “The Godfather” – a provocative and beautiful film about American families (and much more) – but they only point out what is missing in “The Offer”. The Paramount+ limited series about the creation of “The Godfather” is actually about nothing. Its goal is to reduce subscriber churn (via 10 inflated one-hour episodes), extend Paramount’s intellectual property to the nth degree, and remind viewers that they can watch all three “Godfather” movies on the same platform. Evans’ promise to nurture the audience’s soul proves as relevant to “The Offer” as Michael Corleone’s promise to protect his own.
Best I can say, there are three types of people who will watch “The Offer,” even though what lies ahead won’t work for any of them. There’s your casual movie fan (who’d rather watch a show about the making of “The Godfather” than read a of a lot oral histories); he’s your cinephile specialist (who already knows how “The Godfather” was made, but can’t resist a little New Hollywood nostalgia), or he’s your typical TV fan, sucked in by the handful of call members cast or an inside look at how films are made.
Working backwards, TV fans are sure to recognize their favorite stars, though they’re probably smart enough to also realize they’re being wasted or misplaced. Miles Teller (aka Goose baby in Paramount’s upcoming “Top Gun 2”) plays ostensible serial lead, Al Ruddy, a computer programmer who simmers “Hogan’s Hero” as an escape from his lackluster 9 to 5 desk job. But a writers room turns out to be similar to his stuffy old office environment, so he strikes like a movie producer. With the help of his knowledgeable, well-connected secretary, Bettye McCartt (Juno Temple), and a quick friendship that wins Evans’ approval, Ruddy soon flies to New York to pitch Charlie about his vision for “The Godfather” – a bestseller the studio bought on the cheap before it broke big and wants to produce for next to nothing because they think gangster movies are dead.
Most of “The offer” is based on problem solving by Ruddy. He wants Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo) to take a crack at the script, but Paramount execs do not trust the authors to adapt their own material. He wants to direct, but the author is skeptical indie spirit of the source material, type, and the studio of Francis Ford Coppola (Dan Fogler). Then, the cast is quite a job, and the script is too long, and the dailies are too dark, and so on. “The Offer” confuses the production challenges with significant drama, expecting that viewers are investing in the search for Al to make the film simply because it’s … difficult? All that is at stake for the producer is the one job – not his career, which seems safe because he already planning future projects under Evans nor his livelihood, which is already secure thanks to “Heroes Hogan “- and his vague allusions to wanting to do something” by itself “is not exactly enough to touch the heartstrings of the old.
Courtesy of Paramount+
Evans’ arc has a little more heart – thanks mostly to Goode’s overall performance bouncing gleefully between the partying studio head highs and lows — but even Teller’s gritty monotonous tone further muffles the show’s expressionless and uninteresting lead. Producers can often be the unsung heroes of many projects, but that doesn’t in itself make them compelling characters.
In an apparent attempt to remedy the story without consequence of production, series creator and writer Michael Tolkin (who wrote “The Player” in 1992, a brilliant black comedy Hollywood that you should absolutely look instead of thereof) shoehorn in a subplot about family, criminal Colombo League Italian-American civil rights, and the man in the middle of the two, Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi). First a vocal opponent of the film, Joe is courted by Ruddy to become an ally, but make friends with a mafia boss may be just as risky as to put one angry, and the presence of new York mafia weighs heavily on production. Ribisi plays the role as a rude Kermit the Frog; it is not particularly intimidating, but it is not ineffective. Like the rest of “The Offer”, there is simply nothing in the center of Joe. Despite the voice, it is too cartoonish mafia and scripts never give him a distinctive motivation.
For fans of “The Godfather”, much of what I have described is supported by these well-reported oral histories, so that casual fans of the movie can learn a thing or two – like how the cat s curled up on Marlon Brando (Justin Chambers) in the film’s opening scene wasn’t written into the script and in fact interfered with the audio recording – but the way these details are captured makes it impossible to take literally anything. Coppola and Puzo’s script discussions sound like someone took a random scene and then regurgitated copy of Cliff’s Notes from the movie. The actors play the most famous actors as impressions “SNL” humorless. Each character says exactly what they mean, whether it’s required exposition or unsuccessful backstory. There is no authenticity to “Offer” because it’s yet another Wikipedia page you can watch rather than read. Easter eggs are they still Easter eggs if they do not hide in only a single site, but in bold, underlined and highlighted? And is it fun to spot while you still can not trust what you see?
This brings us back to the inescapable “supply” fall: its hollow core. Within the production story of “The Godfather,” there’s a lot to be said for what’s happened to the movie industry since 1970. There’s a humorous ode to neglecting the artisans of the industry. There’s a jet-black satire on how capitalism and art don’t play well. There’s a heartfelt homage to the magic of film that’s built around a detailed admiration for the hard work (and luck) it takes to produce a picture-perfect motion picture. “The offer” is none of these. It’s not trying to be anything beyond a simple to follow, very long commercial for “The Godfather” trilogy, Paramount, and more. precious IP extensions already underway. He makes no attempt to someone’s soul food – just consuming content pipeline drowning in the large TV.
Courtesy of Paramount+
At some point at the end of the series, Al Ruddy returns home with Rosie, a designer he meets at a nightclub. While trying to explain what he does, Al starts talking about art. He doesn’t know how or why, but he knows it inspires him.
“You do not need to know anything about art to appreciate it,” said Rosie. “Have you ever seen the moon landing? Well, how the rockets? How did they end up? How did they know how to turn on this tiny planet? I do not know either. But we do not have to know. We can simply enjoy the spectacular wonder of it all.
It’s true, you do not need to know anything about how art is made to appreciate it. But what Evans and reminds us that “The Offer” does not understand is that the people who make art should understand how it works and why they do it. Otherwise, there is nothing to wonder at anything.
“The Offer” premieres three episodes Thursday, April 28 on Paramount+. New episodes will be released weekly.