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I have always been a fan of Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Robert DeNiro and Andy Garcia but up until recently had only had the pleasure of watching Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. Easter weekend (1999) one of the movie channels aired Parts II and III back to back and being up with a newborn, I watched them both. I was once again spellbound by the story and characters that Puzo created and Coppola brought to life.
By far, the original is my favorite. Marlon Brando was beautifully cast as Vito "Don" Corleone and Al Pacino put in a wonderful performance as Michael Corleone - the son The Don expected better things from than to go into the family business. He knew that Sonny and Fredo would need to, but felt Michael had the mind and ambition to stay out of it. There are two scenes in the movie that stick out in my mind that I will never forget. The first is when The Don asks Tom Hagen what's happened to Michael with just a one word question, "Michael?" He needn't have said anymore, the look on his face told us everything we needed to know when Tom informed him Michael was in hiding in Italy for the shooting of Sollozzo and McCluskey. The second scene is when The Don dies. He and his grandson are running through his tomato garden playing a game. (This scene is quite different in the book, but I'm referencing the movie right now.) Ironic that a man that has people killed, beaten, and has his hand in "dirty" business dealings could play an innocent game with his grandson. Michael's plan to end all family business was brilliant. And, who can forget Kay, his loving yet perhaps NOT so naive wife. I think she wanted to believe very hard that Michael had not become like his father, that she believed he did not have Carlo killed. After all, who would kill their sister's husband and leave their infant son a fatherless child? How appropriate that Part I ends with Kay watching as Michael was addressed as Don Corleone. The office door is closed, telling you that she is essentially being shut out of his life.
The casting of Robert DeNiro as a young Vito "Don" Corleone was a fabulous move on Coppola's part in Part II. (Though it amazes me that DeNiro was EVER that young to be honest with you.) Part II explores parts of the book dealing with Vito Corleone as a boy and depicting how he got his start as The Don or The Godfather, as well as extending the original story line by exploring the Corleone family expansion into Las Vegas casinos and attempt to get into gambling in Cuba. Pacino and DeNiro both put in well done performances. The senate hearings regarding Michael's mob activity was an interesting side story in the movie, and interesting to see how the problem was solved. Kay is no longer pretending not to know in this part, she is fully aware of who her husband is and what he does. This eventually leads to her leaving him, and Michael's sister, Connie, coming home to take care of him.
Andy Garcia being introduced in Part III as Sonny's illegitimate son, Vincent, was a little strange. Where was he in Part II? How did he discover he was Sonny's son? Who was his mother? I did not notice any of these questions answered, but perhaps they were and I was just not paying close enough attention to catch it. I also found the relationship between Vincent and Michael's daughter quite odd. She was young enough to perhaps not realize that a romantic relationship with your first cousin is wrong, but he certainly was old enough to know. I also felt that Michael handed over the business to Vincent too easily. I realize he was having health problems and wanted to get out, but I didn't feel Vincent had earned enough trust or proven his loyalty to inherit the title of Don at that point. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable movie. (Both Al Pacino and Andy Garcia certainly looked good, I might add!) The opera house scenes were well orchestrated. It was sad when Michael's daughter was killed, however, I believe it was necessary. It was appropriate that Michael died alone. Perhaps he would have wanted it that way, but I felt truly sad that his life which had begun with so much promise ended with him alone. I think with Mary being killed, Coppola was paving the way for a Part IV in the series with Don Vincent avenging the death of the woman he loved.
While I only recently read Mario Puzo's book the movie was based on, I was more captivated by the book than I was the movie. Michael's baptismal day plan was even more awesome in the book than in the movie. And, it was such a pleasant surprise to read a book, having already seen the movie, and not be disappointed at the performance the actors gave portraying their roles.
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