The Offer debuts on April 28, 2022 with three episodes on Paramount+, followed by a new episode weekly.
It would probably be a bad idea to remake The Godfather. Telling the origin story of The Godfather would probably be a great idea (like the upcoming Barry Levinson movie Francis doing right now). Bizarrely, The Offer attempts to do both, through tributes galore and head-scratching dramatizations that transcend creative license and land somewhere in the realm of fan fiction. On the other hand, even if the Paramount+ series were sold as a gangster fantasy, it would still be an utterly confusing watch, with a first episode so scattered and uninteresting that even the exponential improvements in the second and third aren’t worth the time are.
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The series is nominally about the making of The Godfather, but in reality it’s about the strange self-mythology of producer Al Ruddy (Miles Teller), who executive produced the show and is based on it often challenged memories the story is based. It would be one thing – an intriguing thing at that – if The Offer actually felt like a work of the unhinged ego, as it so often follows a super-producer with magical charm who leapfrogs almost every production hurdle with the power of words. However, the result is about as tension-free as HBO’s entourage, in which beauty actor Vincent Chase doesn’t get the role he wants at first, but inevitably does after a few scenes. The difference is that Entourage was much more focused and had a sense of time and place.
Entitled “A Seat at the Table,” the first episode is directed by Dexter Fletcher, lasts over an hour, and has a distinct feel of seeing something being put together by machines. It serves to introduce several characters crucial to the making of The Godfather — Rudy, studio head Bob Evans (Matthew Goode), writer/screenwriter Mario Puzo (Patrick Gallo), and mafia antagonist Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi) — but it staggers forward without recognizable narrative, even as it returns to one of its stories. Puzo, for example, got the idea of writing The Godfather in one scene, effortlessly wrote it in the next, and capitalized on his overwhelming success in the scene thereafter; Rudy just as quickly gets his foot in the Hollywood door and begins climbing the ladder at lightning speed, but no two of their scenes are linked by anything other than their own presence.
The closest thing A Seat at the Table has to a consistent line is the story of Ribisi’s sweaty, sinister Colombo, who takes umbrage with Puzo’s novel and eventual production of the film, though it appears too infrequently to be like one to play a significant role in the episode. Rather than narrative, the first chapter feels more like a scattered listing of backstory elements that any sane production would be reduced to a montage or a few lines of exposition, rather than stretching across what appears to be several years before the story actually begins (the show immediately feels like it should have been a movie instead). His sense of time, or lack thereof, is accompanied by a similarly sloppy sense of place that reduces even the Hollywood parties of the early ’70s to stilted sequences of hushed chatter with no real panache – even when Rudy is first introduced to the rich, eccentric Evans at an opulent mansion or when he meets his captivating, outspoken wife-to-be Francoise Glazer (Nora Arnezeder). Goode is as chaotically energetic as a character like Evans deserves, but he’s plodded through a series that looks and feels like someone drained all of the visual energy from Boogie Nights.
The first episode throws out not only a series of disjointed clinical facts, but also amid almost endless references to The Godfather as it attempts to mold itself from Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece. The opening shot pays homage to The Godfather Part II. The opening line even quotes the first film, and there’s a shot lingering on a toilet in an Italian restaurant as if to poke you in the ribs and whisper, “Remember of that far superior scene?” Yet The Offer has little interest in recreating the narrative of The Godfather in anything but a superficial sense. It doesn’t play with light or shadow like The Godfather’s cinematographer Gordon Willis did, although similar themes recur throughout the show. His shots rarely linger, failing to reveal what lies beneath a character’s surface (Rudy’s bustling secretary Bettye McCartt is the exception, but only because actress Juno Temple is so adept at playfully navigating a world of suits while alternately hiding and revealing the character’s intellect). The show just jumps from scene to scene, always in a hurry with nowhere to go.
The two subsequent premiere episodes — directed by Fletcher and Adam Arkin, respectively — feel less haphazard in their construction, but also suffer from near-constant Easter egging. A real producer who left a bloody “note” in his bed recalls a similar scene in The Godfather, and while this case is a fictional creation of the series, it’s not woven back into the film’s origin story be. It’s one of a litany of references that exist only to evoke empty nostalgia rather than establish a relationship between fact and fiction – despite delightful (if minor) subplots about how Puzo and Coppola (Dan Fogler) conceived several memorable scenes .
Fogler, who plays the lead role Fantastic Beasts movies, seems to have carved a very specific niche for himself as the warmest, most humane actor in otherwise miserable productions. His coppola is a tidbit (as is Burn Gorman’s cartoonish Austrian industrialist Charles Bluhdorn, albeit for different reasons), but that’s where the buck stops. Arnezeder shines in her role as Francoise, arriving with an immediate and seductive presence, sustaining her with looks seeking answers to what Rudy may be hiding – he doesn’t let her into the tumultuous processes of film production – but speaks to her Godfather-like tale of a wife becoming ever more marginalized by her husband’s affairs ends just as tensely as Rudy’s other scenes, as most of her marital woes are smoothed out with a mere finger-snapping (offer, tell little in the process, too, with). where you can work).
Aside from the creative and logistical tensions of getting The Godfather sanctioned at Paramount, the show’s main plot consists of real-world anecdotes about Colombo and other mobsters who initially object to the film, which The Offer is trying to turn into its own sprawling to transform gangster saga. However, their hyperbolic dramatizations are distinctly undramatic and actually less interesting than some of the real events that transpired (for example, the show seeks to recast Colombo’s formation of the Italian-American Civil Rights League as a result of the production of The Godfather, rather than the FBI harassment of his son, but in the process creates a version of the notorious mobster who seems far less engaging and persuasive). Even ignoring reality, The Offer’s version of events rarely warrants more than a shrug or a giggle. Though he enlists dangerous gangsters to inexplicably target Rudy, making The Godfather feels like a breeze given how easily he solves any problem.
The show’s indecisive relationship with reality is best illustrated by its cast. Where Fogler captures the essence of Coppola – his cadence, his passion, his irritability – without veering too far into personification, The Offer’s other, more well-known personalities are thrown in opposite directions to the point of incompatibility. His version of Frank Sinatra (Frank John Hughes), who objected to the character of Johnny Fontane, is so un-Sinatra-like in looks, build, presence and voice that your eyes are likely to be drawn to him when he is introduced more charismatic sitting next to him (this also has to do with how thoughtlessly the scene is lit and framed). Meanwhile, the series’ Al Pacino – Anthony Ippolito, who seems rather caricatured – looks and sounds so much like a parody of Michael Corleone (rather than capturing the spirit of a young Pacino behind the scenes) that he seems less like a real person, and more like a creepy deepfake programmed from archival footage (Ribisi is caricatured in the same way as Colombo, sounding unintelligible as if he swallowed a frog).
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As the third episode draws to a close, even the series’ vaguely established notions of conflict seem to have been resolved. Meanwhile, the various issues looming in the characters’ future are even more separate than before. What does The Offer seem to promise in its remaining seven chapters? If the slightly more coherent second and third episodes are seen, one answer is borderline competency. Another is the fraternal banter between Puzo and Coppola, which proves light and entertaining enough, although there’s a lot of genuine artistic psychology in it that goes beyond recalling familiar scenes. However, the overarching answer seems to do little more than satisfy the occasional few behind-the-scenes oddities that can be looked up just as easily on Wikipedia, and that way are probably more engaging than they are.
As for the actual “drama” in The Offer’s dramatizations, the show’s foundation is unnervingly shaky. It’s ready to collapse in a moment, maybe the next, when an artist or gangster with their own beliefs and opinions is quickly swayed by a sentence or two from Rudy, rather than undergoing a meaningful, human shift.