The Offer: Pararmount+'s Prestige Play

What Paramount+’s newest show, The Offer, about the tumultuous production process that brought The Godfather to the big screen, has shown me most clearly is that I’m a sucker for Hollywood stories.

I don’t mean that as a convoluted way to say, “I love The Godfather.” I mean that I love stories about Hollywood. I love stories that take place on backlots, that feature producers and writers and directors, about the creation of the stories that I love so much. Did you see David Fincher’s Mank in 2020? Or Robert Altman’s classic The Player from 1992? More of these kinds of movies, please!

Al Ruddy (Miles Teller), after noticing the crowd’s reaction to the final scenes of The Planet of the Apes, gives an impassioned monologue about the power and magic of cinema. He cited his single mother, described as a tough broad, as singularly affected by movies; it was the only place he ever saw her cry. Apparently I’m an easy mark, because the speech landed. He viewed movies with the same awe and wonder they continue to hold for me to this day.

In the third episode, Matthew Goode’s virtuosic performance as Robert Evans, the Paramount studio head, turns inward as he remembers going to temple as a kid and how it never connected. But then one Saturday he skipped temple and went to see his first movie, and he found his religion.

That kind of talk resonates with me; film is such a big part of how I process the world. It’s fitting of my personal soft spot for meta stories. I love stories about stories, and for that reason, I’ve found myself fully engaged in The Offer through three episodes.

The other thing this show has taught me is just how much critics, in general, hate this show. That is not hyperbole; the vast majority of reviews I’ve read have hated it with something appearing to be a snarky glee.

One of the knocks against the show seems to be not only its attempt to tell a true story but that the true story it’s tackling is The Godfather, one of the most acclaimed movies ever.

It can’t help but draw comparisons to the source material, which is to be expected, but it really seems unfair in the sense that few, if any, TV shows made specifically for a streaming service could claim to rise to the level of such an epic film.

I realize I’ve forfeited my credibility by admitting how unbothered I am by the show’s failing to clear the bar, but I think the bigger takeaway for me is that I’d be happy with a show, starring the same cast of characters, struggling to get literally any movie produced. Not to say it needs to be another depiction of history; the movie in question doesn’t even need to exist outside the show.

I’m not viewing the show as some ardent film bro who can’t bear to associate one with the other; it’s not possible for the film to be reduced because of the show, and the show, in my opinion, doesn’t owe us something more because its subject is one of the greatest films ever.

Are there flaws? Absolutely. The gangster subplot detracts from the show, sure; Giovanni Ribisi’s voice work is ridiculous. Colin Hanks’ character of a stuffy suit only worried about the bottom line is a bit insufferable.

Are there unenviable tasks? For sure. The Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-era Robert Redford lacked a certain Robert Redfordness. Anthony Ippolito is going to be forever judged for trying to do a young Al Pacino (which I honestly don’t think is that bad, in mannerisms if not totally nailing the voice). Some reviews say the Marlon Brando in the show is an absolute tragedy.

These risks are teed up perfectly with adaptations of real life in which the characters are celebrities. I don’t see the swings (and certain misses) as disqualifying at this point. Nor do I see the plot or pacing particularly problematic. It was a fun world in which to get lost, and I find myself as seduced as ever by Hollywood’s charm.

But is there charm? Is there appeal? Yes. There’s a bromance between Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo. There’s Juno Temple’s Bettye. And there’s so much Matthew Goode. Yes, I know I mentioned him already, but he’s just that good.

I’m here for the rest of the ride, which is a pretty easy spot to occupy when one’s not troubled by a nagging plot-driving question like, “Hey, I wonder if that Godfather movie is going to pan out for Paramount?” Just sit back, suspend belief, and be reminded, as Alissa Wilkinson said in her review, that it’s a miracle that any movie gets made ever.