Paramount Plus makes us an offer we can’t refuse in the superb drama, The Offer. Read Carl’s review.
Are you ready for The Offer?
The motion picture epic that is ‘The Godfather’ is constantly being voted as one of the greatest films of all time. The gangster epic is, in essence, a story about a family. And one member who is corrupted against his wishes. But the story behind the film is one that you couldn’t make up. It is well known that the Mob was against the film being made. Frank Sinatra was dead set against it before a frame was even shot. With a specific character said to be inspired by old Blue Eyes. The trouble the film had getting from page to screen is legendary. And the battles between the studio and director Francis Ford Coppola are well known. But after all, was said and done, the film won multiple Oscars and cemented the producer Albert S. Ruddy as one of the most talented up-and-comers in Hollywood.
Based on Ruddy’s experiences making the film, the story is the basis for the Paramount Plus ten-part drama, ‘The Offer.’ Miles Teller stars as Ruddy in a wonderful performance. He is accompanied by terrific turns from Giovanni Ribisi as Joe Columbo, and Colin Hanks as Barry Lapidus. Burn Gorman as Gulf & Western chief Charles Bluhdorn, and Patrick Gallo as author Mario Puzo. Dan Fogler as Francis Ford Coppola and Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt almost steal the main plaudits. But it is Matthew Goode who steals everyone’s thunder and the series. His is a masterful and hopefully Emmy-nominated performance as Robert Evans, the head of Paramount Pictures at the time the film was made. And is the role of a lifetime.
The story starts in 1969. Albert S. Ruddy, who at the time was an employee of the Rand Corporation, meets actor Bernard Fein from the classic show ‘Sergeant Bilko.’ Together, they create and pitch the sitcom ‘Hogan’s Heroes.’ to the CBS network. Ruddy though walks away from the show, wanting to become a Hollywood movie producer. He manages to convince the head of the production at Paramount, Robert Evans to give him a shot at becoming a movie producer. Paramount has optioned the rights to Mario Puzo’s novel ‘The Godfather‘ which Ruddy wants to produce. It is here where the headaches for Ruddy really begin to manifest.
THE FIVE FAMILIES AND THE ITALIAN-AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS LEAGUE
The novel is met with a negative reception from the Italian-American community. Leading the crusade against the novel is superstar Frank Sinatra. He believes that the character of Johnny Fontane, an alcoholic, womanizing, washed-up singer is based on him. With his Mob connections, Sinatra brings the problem to Joe Columbo, one of the heads of the Five Families. Columbo starts a crusade to stop the film from ever being made. He creates the Italian-American Civil Rights League, which fights against injustice against all Italian-American citizens.
Although thanks to the success of the novel, Warner Bros. try and convince Paramount Pictures and in particular Charles Bluhdorn, to sell them the film rights, Evans convinces Bluhdorn to retain them. Evans gives Ruddy his dream and asks him to produce the film. Ruddy chooses Puzo to adapt his own novel with Francis Ford Coppola to direct. But Columbo, in an attempt to intimidate Ruddy to drop the project, has his car shot up while Ruddy and his secretary Bettye McCartt are inside of it.
From this point on, the series follows every aspect of Ruddy’s battle to get the film made. But the series also wisely decides to follow some of the other aspects of the story. Robert Evans and his marriage to actress Ali McGraw and its eventual breakdown are explored. As is Evans’ well-documented substance and alcohol abuse. Columbo and his illegal activities and eventual downfall are covered. Ruddy’s determination to make the film which led to the end of his marriage to Francoise Glazer goes under the microscope. Charles Bluhdorn’s management of Gulf & Western comes to the fore alongside his thirst for money. And even Bettye’s story is shown to the audience, giving us a terrific look at what went on before, during, and after the film was made and released.
Throughout its ten episodes, the drama shows us Hollywood behind the scenes in the early 1970s. And it is a wonderful look back at one of the heydays of movie-making. If any of the audience thirsts for knowledge or is a fan of old-fashioned movies and the way they were made, there is much to love and admire here. It affords us a look back at how decisions were made to make what film, with whom, by whom, and everything in between in the 1970s studio system. From how an idea was formed, to its execution, and sometimes seeing the producer fly to a movie set away from Hollywood to discuss a project with a famous actor, determined to get them to agree and sign on the dotted line. It is eye-opening, to say the least.
THE SUPPORTING CAST
Aside from the main actors, there are many other great performances throughout the show. One-time ‘Incredible Hulk’ actor Lou Ferrigno doesn’t have much to do but he shines through as Lenny Montana, the Columbo associate who was cast as Luca Brasi in the film. We are shown Montana struggling to remember his lines which led to his performance in the film, leading to an inspired piece of casting. Paul McCrane, mostly known for his slimy villain Emil in 1987s ‘Robocop’ gives us yet another slimy performance as Jack Ballard, an executive who oversaw the budget and production of the film and was an obstacle at every turn.
But it is Justin Chambers as Marlon Brando and Anthony Ippolito as Al Pacino that shines through here. Chambers as Brando gives us an incredible performance. His dedication to playing the screen legend is inspired. And the scenes where we see Brando creating his look as Vito Corleone are some of the best in the series. Ippolito as Pacino also turns in an incredible performance. His interpretation of a young Pacino shows us everything we came to expect from an up-and-coming actor. At times, it is like looking in a mirror as we can believe that Ippolito is Pacino himself. And the same goes for Chambers.
THE MAIN CAST
Miles Teller continues his run of giving us terrific performances in his role of Ruddy. We follow and feel everything that Ruddy feels. The elation, the downheartedness, the fear, and every emotional turn Ruddy went through. Teller gives the part his all and it pays off in spades. Colin Hanks gives a performance of a man we would willing like to see taken down a few pegs. His performance as Barry Lapidus has us hating him from the start. All we want to do is slap him as hard as we can, to tell him to back off and allow people to breathe. To create their magic, to bring their quality to the screen. Lapidus doesn’t allow anyone to do anything. Hanks gives a great performance as the ultimate corporate executive. The one we don’t like.
Burn Gorman as Charles Bluhdorn gives us yet another brilliant performance. The Austrian-born American industrialist acquired a small auto parts company that grew into Gulf & Western and went on to add Paramount Pictures to its portfolio in 1966. Bluhdorn was widely lampooned for his accent and Gorman here plays on that to the hilt. His performance gives an aspect of reality to proceedings as we follow him from demanding box office movie hits to his triumph as ‘The Godfather’ hit big, sweeping some of the top Oscars and cementing his legacy. We experience Bluhdorn’s constant mood swings and rants through the acting prowess of Burn Gorman. And he delivers.
DAN FOGLER AND JUNO TEMPLE
Dan Fogler is extremely likable as Francis Ford Coppola. Fogler plays the director like an amazed child at times and it works itself into a masterful performance. We follow Coppola as he tries to get the screenplay together with Mario Puzo. We see his anxiety as he may not get his wish to have the actors he envisioned in the roles. And we see his despair as he finds he may not be able to film in Sicily for the scenes as Michael makes his final turn towards his already ordained fate. And we see his triumph as he gets everything he wanted from the film on his way to a deserved Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. Fogler plays the charismatic director in such a way that we can’t help but love and admire him. And Fogler comes close to stealing the series.
The same has to be said for Juno Temple as Bettye McCartt. We follow Bettye’s journey as she starts as Ruddy’s secretary and some time confidente on her way to becoming the rock that Ruddy leans on for support along the way. From the minute we see her on the screen, Juno Temple grabs our attention. Far from being a throwaway, token role, Ms. Temple comes ever so close to walking away with the production.
She makes for an extremely likable, lovable female lead and she more than holds her own against the men of the story. She gives Bettye a backbone of solid steel. And is not someone you want to upset or mess around with. This is all due to Ms. Temple’s incredible performance. And if there’s any justice, she will at least be nominated for some awards for her role. And the same goes for Dan Fogler.
But despite some out-of-this-world acting performances that in any other dramatic series would steal the show, nothing comes close to Matthew Goode’s performance as Robert Evans. To say that Goode’s performance is a powerhouse doesn’t do it justice. If his performance was in a motion picture, he would be a shoo-in to take home an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, it really is that amazing. Goode embodies Evans so much that we can believe we are seeing the real man on the screen. Evans was an enigma of a man. One that lived the Hollywood lifestyle to the full excess.
The booze and drugs that went into his system are the stuff of Hollywood legend. At times, he is someone who we can hate with every fiber of our being. But we can’t help but love and admire the man who typified early 1970s Hollywood filmmaking. And Goode brings us the man in a performance that must be seen to be believed.
Matthew Goode not only steals every scene he is in, but he also steals the entire series. There are not enough words to describe what an acting masterclass he delivers. From a simple use of the word ‘Booby’ to his genius of walking into a room or scene and dominating every part of it, Goode delivers an acting performance that takes our breath away. He is pitched here against some of Hollywood’s best talent and comes out on top with ease. His role is a vital one in the scheme of things and he plays it to the max. Never before has an actor taken on such a role and knocked it out of the park as Goode does here. We cannot tear our eyes off him when he is on screen. And the emotion he gives Evans at times cannot be understated.
The production design and look of the series are superb. The style evokes the memories of 1970s Hollywood to the fullest. Everything about how the series is set out and filmed is exemplary. From the look of the Paramount Pictures lot to the scenes on location around the United States and Italy right down to the costumes of the era themselves, it is pitch-perfect. The direction of the episodes by Adam Arkin, Gwyneth Horder-Payton, Colin Bucksey, and Dexter Fletcher brings the entire series to life in a way we can believe. The various writers of each episode have done their homework and research on the events that took place both on and off set on ‘The Godfather’ to great effect. This is all helped thanks to Albert S. Ruddy himself being onboard the series as an executive producer, bringing the truth of events to the audience.
FIT THE NARRATIVE
Sadly, some things do subtract from the final product. The almost total omission of seeing the actors who portray James Caan, Talia Shire, John Cazale, Robert Duvall, and for the most part Gianni Russo who played the ill-fated Carlo Rizzi in the film leaves a hole that doesn’t get filled. We do get a nice scene of the principal actors all having a ‘family’ dinner together in preparation for the shoot gives us a small insight into how things were on set. But it isn’t enough. Also, the traditional Hollywood thing of changing certain events to fit the narrative also comes into play. That would be ok if you were not up on the true events. But for those of us who are, it is yet another case of annoyance at the twisting of facts. But these are trivial subtractions to the finished product.
All in all, the series is a highly enjoyable drama that does include some genuine moments of hilarity. It also includes things that you didn’t know about the shooting of the film. Some facts are distorted but they are only a mild irritation to us as the story progresses. This isn’t solely a story about the making of a classic movie, it is also a deep look at the people behind the film. We not only get to learn about the production but also about the trials and tribulations that the main principals behind the scenes went through to get the gangster epic into theaters. We learn about how some things threatened to derail the film before it even got going. And how it affected the personal lives of the principals we follow from the start. And at times it makes for some uncomfortable viewing.
But the series ends on a triumphant note. It doesn’t end as you think it will with some surprises along the way. Some of the decisions the filmmakers made after the film’s Oscar success will leave you scratching your heads. But it is all true. Of course, some people come out of it better than others. But at the end of the day, the film is about a family. And the series is about the people who became a family behind the scenes on their way to an incredible triumph in making a movie classic. Some of the true events could have come straight out of the novel or the film itself. And the series doesn’t shy away from them in the slightest. Highly recommended, with great performances and some classic storytelling. To quote the great Don Corleone, It is an offer you can’t refuse.
All ten episodes of ‘The Offer’ are available to watch, exclusively on Paramount Plus right now.
Feel the Force on Social Media.
Carl Roberts is the News Editor of The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!