Sixteen years after the first two, Coppola decided to finish the series off with the climactic third film. Despite its bad reputation, I think I may have enjoyed this one more than the others. I am truly a black sheep.
To account for the age of the actors, this film is set roughly twenty years after the events in The Godfather Part II. Michael is greying, and both his son and daughter are now young adults. In true Godfather style, the first half hour is devoted to an extravagant party where we can meet our new main characters. Joining the fold is Vincent (Andy García), the son of Sonny, who is very fond of the family business. He is also reckless, and has a tendency to lose his temper, channelling his father’s spirit. Michael reluctantly allows the enthusiastic Vincent to tag along.
As you’d expect in a Godfather film, there is a crime element to this film. Specifically, Michael has loads of shares in some real-estate company, and wants to get the Vatican to give him their share. A load of other mafia people want in on this, but Michael offers them an alternate deal. To be honest, the whole church element went largely over my head, as it’s all very complicated. In this respect, I don’t think that The Godfather series is the best at story-telling. Frequently, we come across characters and subplots that may or may not be important. For example, the horse head in the bed in the original Godfather is just a subplot to show you how ruthless Vito is, but that graphic image might suggest that it’s more important.
The characters can be confusing too; there are so many of them, on different ‘sides’ with different connections to the Corleone family. Details of each character are given out subtly, if at all, so the audience really has to work hard to understand what is going on. For example, it is only revealed that Vincent is Sonny’s son sixteen minutes after we’ve met him; where was that information when I needed it? Whilst finding out that particular figure, I also noticed that Kay is remarried at the beginning of the film and introduces her husband in the party. I didn’t notice her the first time round because she looked so different. Why must Coppola try so hard to make things confusing? As you’d expect, a lot of people die at the end of the film, yet I barely knew who any of them were. Fans are going to tell me that I’m too dull or too inobservant to understand the ins and outs of the films, but I’m personally putting the blame on Coppola for making the films too difficult. I’m not saying I want the exposition spoon fed to me, but the number of times I’ve watched these films and wondered ‘What’s going on?’ is outrageous. Worse still, I imagine that it is because of this subtle exposition style that The Godfather series gets so much acclaim. How can it be that I dislike something for the very reason it is loved? Moving on.
So, the whole church thing I didn’t really understand, but there is another, more wonderful side to The Godfather Part III that kept me watching. Michael is no longer the gloomy enigma that he was in Part II; this film shows him opening up like a flower, letting out all his secrets and feelings. I wouldn’t have suspected it, but he is wracked with guilt for murdering his brother. Better still, he begins to treat Kay and his children with respect, now understanding what he has lost through his abusive ways. Diane Keaton finally comes into her own in this film. No longer is she the tortured individual who cannot escape from her terrifying partner. Both sides are finally ready to be open with each other. This is what makes Part III the better film.
Vincent on the other hand has a devilish side to him. He is a womaniser, and begins an affair with Michael’s daughter Mary (Sofia Coppola), his own cousin. Unfortunately, the director’s daughter isn’t the best actress, and there is almost a Room-style quality in the way she says some of her lines. This makes them an awkward couple on film, when you consider that García was nominated for an Academy Award, whilst Coppola was given the titles Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star at the 1990 Golden Raspberry Awards. It turns out Winona Ryder would have been playing her part, but instead did Edward Scissorhands that same year. Damn shame. The incestuous relationship, whilst an interesting aspect of the film, doesn’t really make sense. Mary keeps saying that she loves Vincent, but this love is based on her fancying him at a wedding when she was 8 and he was 15. He’s not sweet or tender with her; their ‘love’ is completely unfounded. Michael doesn’t stand for it, but while I understand him when he says it’s ‘wrong’, I didn’t at first understand why he called it ‘dangerous’. By the end of the film, all is made clear. To people who have seen this film before, those last couple of scenes did make me a little teary.
While it may not seem that way because of the rant in my review, I did actually enjoy this film, if just to see Michael finally come out of his shell. The rant is more to do with the series in general. While all three films are (generally) well-acted, with a hearty storyline, I feel like there is a bit too much hype over the series. These aren’t the best films I’ve ever seen by a long stretch, but I’m glad to have seen them and to have made up my own opinion.