The Godfather Film Review
By: Chloe Massoni
Francis Coppola did his homework before producing his culturally significant film, The Godfather— having grown up in a Sicilian family myself I can say so with confidence. Coppola nails the Italian culture, including the significant role of family in the film.
Coppola recruits an almost all Italian cast, authenticating the story. His characters are complex and layered, appearing natural in their roles. Marlon Brando is phenomenal in his role as Don Vito Corleone otherwise know as the godfather, a family man. He is quietly authoritative, honest and honorable even in his crimes, commanding respect with his intimidatingly composed demeanor. His eldest son, Sonny, played by James Caan, is ruthless in his business tactics, but Coppola slowly reveals his soft side in his concern for his little sister, Connie, whom he rushes to defend at the drop of a hat. Michael, the good son, begins distanced from the family, a soldier, embracing the life of an honest American citizen; however his distance is not representative of his feelings towards his family. As you peel back the layers of Michael you learn of his loyalty to his family.
I loved The Godfather; Coppola had me laughing, sitting on the edge of my seat, cringing, and sympathizing—feeling with and for the characters. Coppola crafted a perfectly compelling film. I felt every emotion that the director wanted me to feel; maybe this is because Coppola nailed the Italian culture down to a tee. The family dynamics between a Sicilian father and daughter are represented as strong and as connected as they are in reality, such as at Connie’s wedding when Sonny says that his father can resist no request from his daughter on her wedding day.
Italians do favors for one another—a favor for a favor—and Coppola does not miss this aspect of Italian culture in his film. In the beginning of the movie many men go to Vito Corleone asking for favors, and he grants them to his “friends” or the Italians who have done something for him, such as the man in the beginning who tells Vito, “Wait until you see the wedding cake I made for your daughter.” Yet Vito does not want to do any favors for one man because he has never done any for him nor “treated him like a friend.”
The personality types of these Italian characters are very consistent with the personality types of Italians in real life. Men are the head of the household, and the wife of the man of the house plays a strong supportive role. Italian men, especially Sicilian, are hotheaded and aggressive, with a quick temper. Coppola’s characters fit this stereotype, only the personalities are not so flat. Michael’s temper flares momentarily when his wife asks him about his work, screaming at her that she is not to ask questions, and slamming his fist against the desk, but then moments later relaxes, and allows her a question, answering with a lie to protect her because he loves her.
The values are correct, as family comes first, and the Godparents are sacred in the Italian household, just as in the movie, as exemplified by the title The Godfather. Italians really know how to take care of their own. When someone is in trouble, or when someone is harmed, Italians flock to take care of the family of the person harmed, as well as the person harmed, just as in the film when Vito Corleone is shot and the Italians crowd the Corleone house waiting to learn if the Don will survive. Vito’s son, Michael, wants nothing to do with the family business until his father is shot, and then his love for his father overwhelms him and he transforms from the quiet, straight and narrow son, to the head of the family. The characters are very likable because they are very realistic, and very much like the Italians you know in your daily life, minus the murderous endeavors of course.
Coppola’s film, though intense, has its moments of dark humor, successfully evoking laughs all around. Jokes about the bloodshed occurring ensue, such as when the Tattaglia lawyer says to Tom Hagen, “I don’t like violence, Tom. I’m a business man and blood is expensive.” On Clemenza’s way out the door to finish a “job” and kill someone, his wife yells to him, “don’t forget the cannoli!” This twisted humor keeps the audience going as the lengthy movie ensues, roping the audience right back in as soon as the length of the movie and the intensity of violence and death start to become too heavy.
Coppola’s The Godfather is the best gangster movie created thus far, and totally captures a realistic side of the mobster story. The truthfulness in the Italian culture in this film will leave you feeling attached to the characters and feeling less appalled by the murderous actions. I highly recommend this movie to anyone over thirteen.