Say this for The Offer: It makes you want to see The Godfather again — and Paramount+ has complied, making the entire movie trilogy available for bingeing on the original’s 50th anniversary. (The first two are highly recommended.)
This ambitious 10-part drama about the behind-the-scenes conflicts during filmmaking, with producer Albert S. Ruddy fending off meddling studio execs and menacing mobsters, isn’t quite as compelling. It suffers, like so much in the streaming world, from repetition and extreme overlength, which is ironic considering that Paramount’s bean counters (embodied by Colin Hanks in a thankless wet-blanket role) tried to shorten the all-time classic by an hour.
Worse, Offer’s depiction of the gangsters hounding Ruddy (Miles Teller) leans into cartoonish stereotype in a way The Godfather worked so diligently to avoid. It feels like a contest as to who can give the most irritating and mannered performance: Giovanni Ribisi as an adenoidal Joe Columbo, who starts an Italian anti-defamation organization in protest of the movie but ultimately becomes Ruddy’s trusted confidante; Joseph Russo as Columbo’s wide-eyed psycho nemesis, “Crazy Joe” Gallo; or in one of several weak celebrity impersonations, Frank John Hughes as a bullying Frank Sinatra, the entertainment legend who leaned on his mob contacts to try to shut the picture down.
The Offer is on steadier ground when on set, with Grey’s Anatomy veteran Justin Chambers nicely underplaying Marlon Brando in what would become his greatest late-career signature role, and Anthony Ippolito nailing up-and-comer Al Pacino’s insecure method subtlety, always worried (with good reason) that he could be fired from the star-making role of Corleone successor Michael.
Producer Ruddy’s memories inspired this project, but Teller’s colorless performance renders him a wooden white knight. More memorable are his colleagues: Dan Fogler as perpetually needy director Francis Ford Coppola, Patrick Gallo as overwhelmed book author Mario Puzo, Juno Temple as Ruddy’s fabulously plucky assistant Bettye McCartt, Burn Gorman as the volcanic Gulf + Western corporate boss Charles Bluhdorn and, stealing the show with silky bravado, Matthew Goode as preening, schmoozing studio head Robert Evans. He’s a vividly brash avatar of Hollywood incarnate, and I’d watch an entire series about him.
Although in the maudlin moment when Evans is dumped by wife Ali McGraw (Meredith Garretson) in favor of (off-screen) Steve McQueen, and she tells him, “You give everything to this business and there’s nothing left for me,” I hoped he’d step out of the scene and demand it be cut. The show would be better off without it, and here’s a guy who knew about showmanship. (He made McGraw a star in Love Story, which like The Godfather helped rescue Paramount from the doldrums in the early 1970s.)
Evans’ next act would also make a good (and hopefully shorter) behind-the-scenes drama: Chinatown. Nicholson. Dunaway. Polanski. Those were the days.
The Offer, Limited Series Premiere (first three episodes), Thursday, April 28, Paramount+