For years, my husband has been waiting to share this cinematic moment with our son.
He is a superfan of “The Godfather” trilogy, having watched the films at least a hundred times. When our son turned 13 this spring, the teenager started asking when he would be allowed to watch the series with his dad. They decided, a few days before school started, that the time had come.
While I also appreciate the magic of these classic films, my husband’s devotion is on another level. He has most of the dialogue memorized, has read all the backstories and can answer just about any trivia question related to these three movies. I think 13 is a little young for such an intense story, but I figured my husband would be discussing the themes along the way.
This would be their thing.
It took them about 10 days to get through the series, and each night I could overhear the annotated viewing experience my son was getting. I also heard a fair amount of indoctrination, as my husband posed the question, more than once, about whether this was the greatest film of all time. (There is one correct answer to that question.)
Afterward, I asked my husband if he’d had to fast-forward the movies during the inappropriate parts. There were only two brief, racy sex scenes in nearly nine hours of viewing, he said. It’s a story about the mafia and gangsters, so it’s rife with killings, beatings and violence. And yet the violent scenes from decades ago are less gory and graphic than what would earn an R-rating today.
He was more concerned about the scenes depicting domestic violence.
“I didn’t want him to see Michael Corleone slapping his wife or Carlo hitting his wife,” my husband said. He mentioned at both these moments how deplorable these actions were, just to reinforce the message to our son.
There are certainly some relevant life lessons apparent in the trilogy: Crime doesn’t pay. It’s hard to extricate yourself once you are entrenched in a criminal enterprise. Be careful who you associate with. You can’t demand loyalty from people; you have to earn it.
Even though there were no political discussions around their viewing, the timing couldn’t have been more apt. Recently, the country witnessed the unfolding of an extraordinary political scandal in which the president’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, pled guilty to crimes he said he committed at the behest of then-candidate Donald Trump.
This is uncharted territory. Perhaps a cinematic masterpiece can shed light on a powerful family patriarch embroiled in payoffs to porn stars and models, betrayed by his fixer, threatened with the collapse of his dynasty.
A Wall Street Journal report described the scene when Trump originally said he didn’t know about the hush-money payments to the women, and referred questions to his attorney.
“Mr. Cohen, who that night was staying aboard the yacht of Trump donor Franklin Haney, which was docked in Miami, grew irate on the ship soon after Mr. Trump made his remarks distancing himself from the Clifford payment,” the Journal reported. “Mr. Cohen was swearing loudly as others on the boat were sipping their drinks, the person said.”
Francis Ford Coppola could have directed that scene.
I would argue that “The Godfather” is ultimately an epic narrative about family. I asked my son about his impressions of the story.
“It was compelling,” he said. “It was pretty dark, but very good.”
When I asked him if he had any takeaways from the movie, my son quoted Al Pacino’s character in “The Godfather: Part II”: “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”
In 2018, art imitating life.