I don’t know a single person who calls themselves a fan of the movies who hates Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, well, except for myself. I loathe it, there is no other way of putting it. It’s slow, it thinks way too highly of its overly ambitious sentiments about family and most of all its over indulgent with the film opening with a 30 minute wedding scene that has only a few disparate frames worth mentioning positively.
Don’t misunderstand me, the acting in the film is top notch and Al Pacino is a revelation in it. However he is trapped in a movie that feels like it goes nowhere, it’s unrelenting in its pace. Scenes take forever to end and the seemingly important speeches every character gives end up being either meaningless or condescending. In fact the few action scenes in the movie, the gravy designed to add flavour to this crime pie are so quick, infrequent and stupidly artsy that they lack any kind of merit or importance.
The film’s classic lines are still classic but they are buried beneath hours of mobsters waxing on about how hard things are getting and how the gangster life has a certain code. In any other film this would be construed as cliche but considering The Godfather created/ helped mould these cliches it can be forgive. What can’t is that these nowadays cliches are laid on so thick I imagine people in the cinema on the first day of release were getting out of their seats in anger saying ‘Thats a bit of a cliche isn’t it?’ regardless of the fact they hadn’t been developed yet.
Marlon Brando’s method performance as Vito Corleone, with unconvincing Italian accent to boot, never really does anything. His nasal voice grates and his decision to extend every line of dialogue for time drags out an already 3 hour mess of a film to an ungodly length. Coppola tells his tale with no commitment, at times the film is brash only to lighten for no reason. The contrast of a nice happy wedding and the strangulation of a man is a nice touch but it would work better if the wedding wasn’t one long way for Coppola to scream the word family at you.
It’s not that I hate gangster films, there are plenty that I love. In fact my favourite film is the heartbreaking Road to Perdition, a certifiably excellent gangster flick that puts The Godfather to sleep thanks to a director that knows what he is doing. Coppola’s trilogy starts with a film so morose and dank that there is no one to root for and nothing to care about, something I desperately wanted to do when watching this for the first time until I came to the realization that The Godfather is just an exercise in mindless symbolism over story, directed by a man too interested in what a film says over whether its actually entertaining.