The Offer Review

The Offer
1969, Hollywood. Al Ruddy (Miles Teller), co-creator of sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, convinces Paramount head Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) to take him on as a producer. Evans tasks the newbie with bringing best-selling book The Godfather to the screen, a project in the crosshairs of Mafia boss Joe Colombo (Giovanni Ribisi), angry that Mario Puzo’s (Patrick Gallo) novel denigrates the Italian-American way of life.

by Ian Freer |
Published on

Streaming on: Paramount+

Episodes viewed: 10 of 10

Everyone involved in The Offer, Michael Tolkin and Nikki Toscano’s ten-part series about the making of The Godfather, clearly understands why Francis Ford Coppola’s film is a masterpiece. It’s just a shame, then, that none of that knowledge is applied here. For everything The Godfather has in spades — texture, nuance, piercing intelligence, rich subtext, sharply defined but subtle characters, opera in its soul — is pretty much absent in The Offer. It is enthusiastically played by a game, colourful cast and has strong moments, but the overall effect is a broad dramatisation of a Wikipedia page. Rather than end credits, it should end with references and external links.

The Offer

The opening intro (the theme tune mashes Nino Rota with Mad Men) includes the credit “Based on ALBERT S. RUDDY’S EXPERIENCES of making The Godfather”, and Ruddy (Miles Teller, replacing Armie Hammer), the computer programmer who became a sitcom creator and then the producer who, on the evidence here, willed The Godfather into existence, is the focal point. It’s a smart choice. Ruddy provides connective tissue for all the lore that has amassed around the film: the battles with the Mob, the fights over casting Al Pacino (Anthony Ippolito, uncanny) and Brando (Justin Barnes, less convincing), the resistance to cinematographer Gordon Willis’ dark lighting and arguments over running time. Surrounding the ‘making of’ is the bigger power play between Paramount studio head Robert Evans (Matthew Goode) and Charlie Bluhdorn (Burn Gorman), the CEO of Gulf + Western, who owned Paramount.

As much as Coppola’s film finds the humanity in gangsters, The Offer delivers cardboard cut-out mobsters, as if The Godfather never existed.

The tone is set from the get-go. In the very first scene, a gangster walks through Little Italy and tells someone to “leave the cannoli” (Dexter Fletcher directs the opening episodes and this feels like Bohemian Rhapsody with Fredo rather than Freddie). Much of the show centres on Ruddy’s machinations with the New York Mob, embodied by Giovanni Ribisi’s Joe Colombo, and as much as Coppola’s film finds the humanity in gangsters, The Offer delivers cardboard cut-out mobsters, as if The Godfather never existed. What’s equally frustrating about The Offer is that not only did Tolkin and Toscano not heed the lessons from Coppola, they failed to pay attention to Tolkin’s own sharp-as-a-tack screenplay for Robert Altman’s Hollywood satire The Player. The dialogue is so on the nose (“Fuck art, Mario, start typin’!”), the call-backs ham-fisted (the famous episode of the actors morphing into the Corleones over a Coppola-arranged dinner is ludicrously literal) and the story is stretched too thin, the final two episodes devoid of any drama (Colin Hanks’ Paramount bean-counter creating the idea of the opening weekend is as good as it gets).

But for all its faults, The Offer does have its pleasures. It’s fun to see the iconic scenes recreated (especially Michael’s killing of Sollozzo and McCluskey) and the cast are clearly having a ball; Teller is a charming, easy-to-root-for protagonist, Dan Fogler is a captivating Coppola — his relationship with Patrick Gallo’s Mario Puzo is a delight — and Burn Gorman has a blast as the blunt Bluhdorn. But the standout is Matthew Goode’s charismatic Evans, full of both swagger and sadness, believable as a hard-headed businessman who still has a feel for his art. And even if some of the writing is a bit #MeToo-by-numbers, the show does a good job of highlighting the contributions of women often erased from Godfather narratives, especially Paramount casting exec Andrea Eastman (Stephanie Koenig) and Ruddy’s assistant Bettye McCartt (a terrific Juno Temple), whose industry nous saves the day on numerous occasions. It’s a shame McCartt didn’t work on The Offer. Her smarts and savvy just might have rescued it.

Played with gusto by an engaging cast, The Offer falls down on its tin ears and broad strokes. You can’t help but feel The Godfather deserves so much better.
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