The Godfather: Part III-1990
Director-Francis Ford Coppola
Starring-Al Pacino, Diane Keaton, Andy Garcia
Reviewed December 3, 2016
The Godfather: Part III, released in 1990, has traditionally been met with unwavering criticisms for not being as great as the two preceding epics. Sofia Coppola, who plays Mary- daughter of Michael Corleone, in particular, has bared the brunt of the attacks. No, The Godfather: Part III is not on the level of the others, but is actually pretty damned good based on its own merits and is a capable mob epic to conclude the franchise in a satisfying fashion. The central theme is Michael’s continued desire to leave the mafia and religion, and the Catholic Church are central themes of the film.
Some backstory to the making of the film; Coppola had a non-expiring offer to create a third installment to the saga ever since 1974, when Part II was released. Having had a financial crisis, 1990 was the time Coppola agreed to do the follow-up. The ever crucial role of Mary (now a coming of age young lady) was to be played by Julia Roberts, who dropped out. Winona Ryder was then cast and bailed at the very last minute. Out of necessity, Coppola daughter Sofia was cast and had little time to prepare or much acting experience (she would later become an acclaimed director, which better suited her talents).
In similar fashion to the other epics, a big event launches the film, as Michael (Pacino) is named Commander of the Order of Saint Sebastian in a lavish ceremony at St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral. It is revealed that Michael is approaching age sixty and semi-retired, leaving his business dealings mainly to Joey Zasa in New York, who has ravaged what the Corleone family had once built. Many characters- Kay, Mary, Tony, and Connie, are re-introduced, and new characters such as Vincent Mancini (Andy Garcia) and Don Altobello (Eli Wallach) are introduced, in a flurry of new story lines. It is like a big, grand, soap opera, with wonderful, rich, writing.
I was immediately impressed by the neat cinematography- the camera captures wind-swept leaves and an artistic introduction to the film, as well as either mentioned or appearing in cameo roles, small characters from the first two films- a great touch in continuity and history. Coppola does a fantastic job of providing little updates of these characters during a party. For example, we learn that Vincent is the deceased, illegitimate son of Sonny, his mother being Lucy Mancini, who appears in a scene. (Clever viewers will remember Sonny and Lucy’s torrent affair in the bathroom during The Godfather-it is suggested that this produced Vincent). It is mentioned that Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall) has died, though his wife and son appear, and Coppola treats us to a myriad of flashbacks (Apollonia, a young Michael and Kaye). These nuances make The Godfather: Part III filled with cool little aspects that fill the loyal viewer with warmth.
The main story- Michael takes Vincent under his wing- and strives to steer the family clear of criminal ties- is interesting, if not spectacular. Connie rises from battered mafia wife, raising kids, to a major player in the family, just as women progressed from the 1940’s to the 1980’s, when the story takes place. She even feeds her godfather a poisoned cannoli! Michael, Vincent, and Connie involve themselves with the Catholic Church, bailing them out (the real-life Papal banking scandal is linked to the story) and making a deal with them for major shares of a real-estate company, Immobiliare. In-fighting between the major crime mob bosses lead to several bloody massacres throughout the film, on the streets, in Atlantic City, and finally, in the Sicilian Opera house.
The pairing of cousins and lovers, Vincent and Mary, never really works, nor does Bridget Fonda’s one or two scene appearance as Grace Hamilton, a brief dalliance for Vincent. Also, the exclusion of the character of loyal family attorney Tom is a glaring omission. So the film does contain a few negatives.
In a nutshell, The Godfather: Part III is a very good, epic, crime drama even without the Godfather name. To measure up to the glory of Parts I and II is impossible. With the added bonus of having the rich Corleone family history and the intricate relationships between the characters, this makes for a treat for fans. There has not been a Part IV, nor should there ever need to be as the conclusion of the film is a satisfying wrap-up to the saga.