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The UnPopular Opinion: The Godfather Part III

01.15.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

In 2001, as VHS was fading into oblivion, I was given the Christmas gift of THE GODFATHER DVD COLLECTION. A self-professed movie buff and cinephile, I had seen any number of silent films, Hitchcock thrillers, Truffaut masterpieces, and my fair share of Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma movies. I knew the terms giallo and had sat through UN CHIEN ANDALOU and yet I had never watched any of Francis Ford Coppola's iconic adaptations of Mario Puzo's novel. Yes, I had seen APOCALYPSE NOW and other Coppola productions, but for some unknown reason I had never seen THE GODFATHER. So, egg nog by my side, I popped in the first disc and away I went. I watched all three movies in a row and realized something: THE GODFATHER PART III is pretty damn good.

There is so much hatred out there for THE GODFATHER PART III to the point that I was prepared for a complete debacle. Considering the fact that Francis Ford Coppola has made some stinkers (JACK), it was not outside of the realm of possibility for this movie to have sucked, but I found myself loving every moment of the movie. Made sixteen years after the highly acclaimed THE GODFATHER PART II, the third film completes a story that there would never have been a totally satisfying way to had it been filmed immediately following the first two. And that is also part of the issue. THE GODFATHER PART I and II are essentially one film. There is even a seven hour version compiled for NBC known as THE GODFATHER SAGA that tells the first two films in sequential order. PART I and II are, despite being filmed 2 years apart, a whole film. THE GODFATHER PART III is truly the sequel to those movies.

Even a mafia kingpin gets a shitty haircut from time to time.

As far as sequels go, there is little to be upset about here. We get Al Pacino and Diane Keaton back as Michael and Kay Corleone along with Talia Shire and the addition of Sofia Coppola, Joe Mantegna, and Andy Garcia.  Cinematographer Gordon Willis and composer Carmine Coppola also returned from the first two films, giving THE GODFATHER PART III a level of consistency often missing from sequels films over a decade from the original.  The movie looks just as stunning as the first two and feels like an organic continuation and conclusion to the first two movies.  Despite garnering seven Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, THE GODFATHER PART III is almost always considered the black sheep of the trilogy and one of the most overlooked good movies of all time.  The reason?  Sofia Coppola.

Today, we know Sofia Coppola as an Oscar-nominated writer and director of movies like THE VIRGIN SUICIDES and LOST IN TRANSLATION.  But, in 1990, she was the product of nepotism and the "near fatal flaw" to THE GODFATHER PART III according to Leonard Maltin, Gene Siskel, and Roger Ebert amongst countless other critics.  Was she truly that abyssmal in an otherwise great movie?  No, not at all.  It is easy to shit on her because she was not nearly the performer that Pacino, Keaton, or Garcia were.  Some even claim she had no chemistry with her on screen lover played by Andy Garcia.  But, looking back at the film, she brings an innocence to the role of Mary Corleone that is a striking contrast to their gravitas, something that gives the Corleone family a little more realism and less of the operatic grandeur we have expected from the films.

Everyone needs a little cousin lovin' from time to ti....nope, no, not a chance in hell.  Gross.

I can see how at the time of the film's release, with names like Madonna, Winona Ryder, and Julia Roberts vying for the part of Mary Corleone that Sofia Coppola seems like the odd one of the bunch.  But, had she gone by another name or somehow been unknown to audiences and critics, would they still have found her performance so completely awful?  I doubt it greatly.  Watching THE GODFATHER PART III recently, I found Coppola's performance to be very convincing as a bratty princess to criminal royalty.  Plus, her death scene remains one of the single most devastating moments in movie history.  There are very few moments in any movie that hit you in the gut the way this one does.

There was also criticism of the make-up and prosthetics used to age Pacino and Keaton, something I found to work quite well, especially considering when the film was made.  Michael Corleone was supposed to be 60, ten years older than Al Pacino was when the movie was made.  Andy Garcia, in my opinion, was the weakest character in the film and yet I still found myself comparing him to James Caan's hothead Sonny Corleone.  Garcia's character feels a little slimier than Caan or Pacino but he also fits in as a product of the setting of the movie, as does Joe Mantegna as Joey Zasa.  All together, THE GODFATHER PART III's cast is as good as either of the first two.

Michael Corleone demonstrates how to check if your kumquats are ripe.

Whereas THE GODFATHER PART I and II feel like the epic tale of the rise of Michael Corleone to his father's place as Don, THE GODFATHER PART III feels more like the Shakespearan fall of the family.  The Shakespeare comparison has been around since the final film in the trilogy debuted, but it is a warranted one.  This movie doesn't feel like part of the tale of the first two but rather a different chapter in the same saga.  Like any good series, this film keeps the characters consistent while changing certain aspects of the tale to keep it fresh.  But, unlike most trilogies, THE GODFATHER PART III is a satisfactory and powerful conclusion that keeps the spirit of the original film alive and respects the series while not being afraid to challenge the audience with new ideas.  Is THE GODFATHER PART III a perfect movie?  No, but it it a hell of a lot better than anyone gives it credit for.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!

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Source: JoBlo.com

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