You do know how Godfather movies work, right? I mean, I suppose they could have Die Harded the franchise and given it a PG-13. They didn't. It's R for violence, but they also have some blasphemy and incest in case you were interested.
DIRECTOR: Francis Ford Coppola
Aw geez. I'm the Catholic film teacher who seems to really like The Godfather Part III. That, in itself, seems to take away my credibility card. Everyone hates this movie. Everyone. It's a punchline to so many snobby references that it almost seems impossible to like this film. But, c'mon! The movie isn't that bad. It's not perfect. But I also don't hold the Godfather films in as high a regard as many people do. Perhaps it's because I'm not super in love with these movies that I can appreciate it for a film sooner than being yet another letdown as a closer for a trilogy. I keep coming back to expectations. The expectations for this movie were abysmal. So what did I get out of it? A fairly solid Godfather film.
I am always torn about Coppola. Coppola is often lumped in with the genius directors, especially of the modern directors. But when I watch Coppola, I always take his movies on a case by case basis. Part of me absolutely loves his Dracula. It is dark and brooding. The colors in it are awesome. There is this epic feel to the look and sound to it that just makes it awesome. But at the same time, Coppola is so obsessed with the scope of his film that it comes across as a bit silly at times. This is also the same film that has Keanu Reeves acting across from Anthony Hopkins, which is one of my most cringeworthy moments in film. But then there's Apocalypse Now!, a film that is universally loved. I admire that movie so much, even if it doesn't ever hit my top films list because it is so proficiently great. The first two Godfather movies are also proficiently great, but that movie suffers a bit from the fact that I find it paced rather oddly. (I will say that watching Part III makes me want to rewatch the first two film again with the new understanding of the franchise. The original plan was to rewatch the first two before jumping into the third, but I kept getting through Parts I and II and then taking year long hiatuses before watching III.) I find it odd that I critique Coppola because I acknowledge that he is a genius in some right. There's a cultural line that I have a hard time getting around because I acknowledge that I'm critiquing someone who is leaps and bounds smarter than I am. That's a tough place to come at. But I also know that Coppola has a little bit of his friend Lucas in him. He has become something bigger than what can be managed. I remember seeing Youth Without Youth and thinking that I was going to be the guy who was going to like this unheard of movie. I didn't love it. I really wanted to love it, but I remember seeing cracks in the pavement. But Coppola has something beautiful in Godfather Part III. Perhaps the only reason that I can see that is that it is looking at Coppola in a lens of flaws. He has fallen a bit and seeing Part III not as his first big commercial upset, but in the frame of a movie among many that did not meet audience expectations gives it a greater validity than it had before.
A lot of the criticism for this movie rests on Sofia Coppola's performance. She's not great. I can understand that sometimes directors don't mind bad performances despite the fact that it weakens the overall product. *coughcoughKEANU* She's not abysmal, except when she actually needs to be great, which is why people are probably so mad at her. (On a side note, this movie made me stick Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette on my Amazon Wish List. *hint hint*) But can a movie really have legs even if it has such a glaring error? I guess the answer is "yes". But again, I was prepped for that performance. I even like the fact that she's in the movie. It makes the film somehow feel more personal, even though it is a glaring example of how nepotism can backfire. The movie actually was more uncomfortable for me when it came to the blasphemy within. The idea of the Church as an extension of the Mafia didn't really sit right with me. But that narrative element really works with the overall theme of redemption within the story. I love the idea of the last film in the franchise exploring of how Michael Corleone, a man obsessed with avoiding his fate and doing the right thing, having to go back and attempt to save his soul while maintaining face. If anything, this is a look at how pride actually serves to be a deadly sin. Yes, it paints the Catholic Church in a negative light, but I'd like to think that choice in intentional. The irony of placing what should be the least corrupt institution in juxtaposition to the Mafia creates this very cool parallel. (Again, I have to establish that I wish Coppola and Puzo didn't take this route, but I'm going to explore it in a literary / cinematic sense.) Michael keeps making these choices in an attempt to save his soul (perhaps not overtly worded like that, but again...this is insight!), but with every small step that he makes that is a shortcut, he only goes deeper and darker. The same thing is going on with the cardinal who is stealing from the Church. He knows he has done wrong and returning the money would do a great service to the Church. But having Michael solve his problem is making the Church all the more corrupt. That parallel is super interesting, if not a little sickening.
I don't know if I get the choice to have Mary and Vincent in an incestuous relationship. It feels very shocking. The odd thing about the whole relationship is that it seems disgusting for the audience, but Michael breaking that relationship up makes him look like a villain. Then there is Kay's thoughts on the whole relationship, which she seems kind of fine with. My theory on this choice doesn't really have the solid foundation that I want it to have. I suppose it is meant to be as a way to stress the term that Michael and the mobsters have. They keep calling the relationship "dangerous." Occasionally, the term "wrong" will slip in there, but the word that keeps getting repeated is "dangerous." Stressing that Michael can't see the difference between right and wrong might be the issue. He sees it not as a moral issue, which is Michael's internal conflict throughout the story, but rather as a PR issue is very revealing about his character. The bigger issue is how it plays in a narrative sense. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel in terms of emotions when it comes to Mary and Vincent. It feels like the movie is almost using that relationship as something shocking, which does feel very cheap. Shock always plays a bit odd for me, so I can't exactly affirm that aspect. I will say that incestual gnocchi making does make a memorable scene though.
The end I really like, but I also have to call a bit of shannanigans on the movie for it. I have to say setting the murders during an opera is a bit too on the nose for my liking, but the execution (pun intended) of that sequence is very cool. The issue is the same that people had with The Force Awakens (another loose Lucas tie!). These beats have been hit in previous Godfather films. The murder montage contrasting to a seemingly innocent sequence is now cliche. That sequence works really well and I suppose that people want that in their Godfather films. But there has to be another way to explore that element. But, again I said that the movie really works in this last sequence. The one new addition is the fact that Michael is one of these targets. I like the fact that Michael has become somehow more vulnerable the more powerful is a cool dynamic. The suspense of that sequence, balanced across from Michael's son singing, is phenomenal. SPOILER: I don't know if Mary's fate is necessarily earned or realistic. It seems like a John Steinbeck ending, but in a world that really tries basing its world in a heightened version of reality, it does feel a bit gimmicky. It's oddly preachy. The concept is cool, but it does feel very cinematic versus any world where this could actually happen. It's not beyond the world of reality, but it does feel like the cosmos aligned a little too closely to give Michael his ultimate come-uppins.
So I liked it. I'm that guy. The guy who liked The Godfather III. I guess I'll turn in my reviewer card and shut this website down because my opinions don't matter anymore. Or I'll just keep doing this in an attempt to counteract my eventual spiral into dementia. (Whoa...dark. Also, is that at all based on science?)
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.