The Offer

3 out of 5

Created by: Michael Tolkin

The original The Godfather is a fantastic film. I’m not here to try to convince you otherwise. And I’m sure there are fantastic, nigh unbelievable stories behind the making of the film as well. Is The Offer – a ten-episode miniseries on Paramount Plus – an accurate telling of those stories? Maybe? But it is, more surely, an entertaining one.

The main criticism I’ve seen regarding Michael Tolkin’s summing up of producer Albert Ruddy’s experiences while making The Godfather is that it’s a bit too cute, essentially; a bit too beholden to the sensibility that its source movie is holy ground, and that its era of Hollywood has a glow to it. Sure, there are drugs and sex and people die, but the whole thing’s been wiped clean of much lingering controversy, instead turned into episodic problem-of-the-weeks that deal with Some New Hurdle in getting the movie made. And while it’s not a requirement to have seen Godfather to recognize most of its culturally-absorbed references, the time it takes for some factual “this happened!” winking, and the indulgent reverence it has for the movie do make for some excess padding in the show.

But in a way, if you can set that aside, and consider this more as a work of fiction, it makes more sense, and can be ridiculously entertaining: Miles Teller gets to be a badass superhero as Ruddy (methinks Ruddy’s role as a producer on the show accounts for how well his representation comes across here, but Teller does sell it), and his glad-handing and politicking with the Paramount producer bigwigs (also rather convenient that this is on Paramount Plus, eh?) and the mob make for awesomely fun adventures. …As long as you’re not applying any rules of reality. With that disconnect, the sheeny-shiny Hollywood on display is more tolerable, and the decision to not show the scenes from The Godfather (as acted by the show’s actors), rather just people reacting to them, gives those moments a dreamlike vibe that also works with viewing this as a completely fictional affair.

Extend this to the supporting cast: Matthew Goode’s producer Robert Evans, Dan Fogler’s director Francis Ford Coppola, Burn Gorman’s studio head Charles Bluhdorn, Giovanni Ribisi’s mob boss Joe Colombo, Juno Temple’s Ruddy-assisting Bettye McCartt… across the board, everyone is a fantastic character, with Goode especially mesmerizing, but they’re all playing parts. Fun ones! …But again, as long as you’re not trying to identify them as real people.

That said, the show does allow its female cast to feel more dimensional than its males – McCartt, and the other behind-the-scenes gals (Nora Arnezeder; Andrea Eastman) add more nuance to their scenes, requiring those acting alongside them to step up to that same plate. Teller’s interactions with McCartt and Arnezeder, for example, are suggestive of a much deeper drama than the hijinx-flavored presentation we got. This, too feels a bit “convenient” though, as one suspects the reality is that things were much harder for these women than what’s displayed here, but that’s all part of the fantasy The Offer is working toward: going along with the assumption that The Godfather is genius, and that its production was a miracle of brilliant and brave people doing wild, entertaining things to get it made.

If you’re okay with just going with a fictional gloss across whatever the facts are, it is, indeed, quite entertaining.