1990 / Best Director / Best Picture / Best Supporting Actor

Film #409: The Godfather Part III (1990)

It’s been a while since we checked in on Al Pacino in fact the last film on the blog that he appeared in was Dog Day Afternoon. Whilst Pacino was considered one of the biggest stars of the 1970s, the eighties presented somewhat of a creative slump for him. After garnering a fourth Best Actor nod, for the 1979 film …And Justice For All, Pacino starred in a number of notable Box Office failures. The one exception to this rule occurred in 1983 when Pacino portrayed the iconic Tony Montana in Scarface, a role that was cruelly overlooked by Oscar. But Pacino’s career would turn around in the 1990s with three more Oscar nominations as well as a reprisal of one of his most famous roles.

That role was of course Michael Corleone who was one of a number of familiar faces returning for the third and final instalment in The Godfather franchise. Pacino had previously been nominated for playing Michael in the prior two Godfather movies even though he was only given a Supporting Actor nod for his role in the original movie. Ever since I revisited the first two films I’ve had a problem with Brando winning Best Actor as Michael is really the leading character in the first film. Pacino is on screen longer than Brando and The Godfather is really about Michael’s journey from military man to head of the family. Of the three Godfather films I have to admit that I’ve never watched this final instalment due to the fact that it’s been panned critically. In fact the film only exists due to Francis Ford Coppola’s financial problems after his previous film, One from the Heart, failed to draw an audience. Taking up Paramount’s long standing desire to create a final film, Coppola created what he claimed to be an epilogue to The Godfather franchise and he originally wanted to call it The Death of Michael Corleone. There are definitely a lot of problems with The Godfather Part III but Pacino’s performance isn’t one of them as he perfectly portrays an ageing Michael. Now with greying hair and at one point suffering a diabetic stroke, Michael attempts to get out of the criminal enterprise once and for all until another murder pulls him back in. The film also concerns itself with introducing Michael’s natural successor, Sonny’s illegitimate son Vincent, who has made a lot of enemies prior to appearing on screen. Vincent soon starts a romance with Michael’s daughter Mary a relationship that is soon quashed by Michael who believes that their pairing will ultimately end badly. The climax of the film occurs in Sicily as the family arrives to watch Michael’s son Anthony take part in an opera. It’s here at the opera that some of the Corleone’s enemies are murdered and Michael suffers a particularly big loss.

Part of the problem with The Godfather Part III is its overly wordy script as I felt there were too many scenes featuring a lot of men talking in rooms. This started at an event to honour Michael’s new role as the Commander of the Order of Saint Sebastian due to his charity work. Whilst the planning and the plotting worked in the first two Godfather films here it felt forced and I mentally switched off during a lot of these scenes. It was only when the family arrived in Sicily that I felt the film really got going especially in the scenes in which Michael and Kay reminisced about their past together. Pacino’s chemistry with Diane Keaton was a great as ever with the latter conveying a tinge of regret in Kay’s eyes before Michael inevitably started scheming again. The closing scenes at the opera were beautifully done as Coppola and his editing team deftly switched between the performers on stage and the murders that were happening at the same time. One of the most famous problems with the film was the casting of Coppola’s daughter Sofia as Mary Corelone. Although viewed as pure nepotism on Coppola’s part, the role of Mary was initially given to Winona Ryder before she dropped out at the last minute. I didn’t have a problem with Sofia’s performance in the early stages of the film but it was only during her romance with Andy Garcia’s Vincent that the cracks began to show.
The issue was that Sofia and Garcia had little chemistry so it was hard to care about their Romeo and Juliet love story which was one of the movie’s major subplots. Similarly, as Sofia had done little to make me care about the character, I really didn’t care that much when she was gunned down in the film’s final moments. Garcia himself gave a decent turn as Vincent and was given a Best Supporting Actor nod as a character who was attempting to emulate Michael. The Godfather Part III did suffer from a lack of interesting characters as Fredo was murdered at the end of the second film whilst Tom Hagen was similarly absent due to Robert Duvall’s refusal to be paid a lot less money than Pacino was getting. The ultimate result of these decisions meant that The Godfather Part III was a patchy film that sullied the memory of its predecessors. Though Pacino gave a memorable turn and the film got going during its final third, this was an unnecessary addition to what was a perfect franchise and it was evident that Coppola had returned to the Corleone family purely for monetary gain.


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