It’s time to take another trip with the Corleone family!
Screenplay By: Francis Ford Coppola & Mario Puzo
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
The Godfather: Part II is held in the same pantheon as The Godfather by the great majority of the movie going public. I liked The Godfather: Part II a lot, but it falls short of belonging in that pantheon, or the pantheon of all-time great films. It’s not a bad movie by any means, so don’t think that is what I am saying. The Godfather: Part II is a great movie, but in order for it to be an all-time great the viewer needs to love its structure and I wasn’t a big fan of the structure.
The aforementioned structure of The Godfather: Part II is handled well when it comes to actual story presentation. However, my biggest problem with said structure is that the duality of the stories left me at a loss when it came to the stories resonating with me. The cutting back and forth was problematic because every time I was into one story it would all of a sudden end and move back to the other story, leaving me with a constant feeling of an unfinished story. I know that isn’t true in a narrative sense, both stories come to an actual satisfactory ending, but I never got a real sense of closure or connectivity with either story because of the structure used to convey the stories.
However, beyond the structure the biggest problem with The Godfather: Part II is the difference in appeal of the two stories. I wanted to stay with Vito, I didn’t want to leave his story. He is a much more interesting character than Michael and the era of his story is a much more interesting era than that of Michael’s. I didn’t find the story of Michael unappealing, but it simply couldn’t keep pace with the story of Vito. It’s not a good sign when I wanted the Michael segments to end just so that I could get back to Vito.
As much as the above is true, that doesn’t mean the stories told were that lacking. There was a disconnect on my part, but I am able to recognize layered quality storytelling when I see it. The way that the stories of Vito and Michael work off of each other, showing the same story idea but with different paths and ultimately different outcomes as a result was well done and interesting to take in. I may not have been as interested in Michael’s story as I was in Vito’s, but the connection between the two was strong and made both stories an essential part of the overall movie.
I’ve never made it a secret that I’m not a big fan of Al Pacino, he’s always had the habit of doing too much with his roles and overacting to the point of annoyance. However, his Michael Corelone is a great performance because he doesn’t overact or do too much, he plays Michael calmly and lets things simmer under the surface. This allows you to feel and see what Michael is going through without the need for added histrionics. Unfortunately for Pacino he was in a movie with Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Gazale and Michael Gazzo. It shouldn’t be viewed as a mark against Pacino, but the fact that those listed acted circles around him should be viewed as a testament to the acting prowess of the cast of The Godfather: Part II.
The cinematography is once again outstanding in The Godfather: Part II, as is the set design. I believed I was in Cuba, Miami and Las Vegas. However, and I know I’m beating a dead horse here, the look of Italy and New York in the early 1900’s looked more intriguing and textured than that of the 1950’s locations. Costume design would be the same, but that’s not to say anything was bad about any production facet of The Godfather: Part II, it is an extremely well made movie, it’s just some parts are better than others.
There you have it, I may be one of the only few people alive who didn’t absolutely love The Godfather: Part II and want to immediately declare it in a tie for the best movie of all time, although The Godfather isn’t my number one of all time anyways. The Godfather: Part II is a great movie, but I couldn’t get behind the structure, and the appeal of one story over the other hurt my viewing experience. Still, it’s not like The Godfather: Part II is a movie to avoid, it is a great movie that any movie fan should try and see. But we’re not done with Corleone’s yet, well I think Diane Keaton is, but not me.