Welcome to the second review of The Godfather trilogy directed by Francis Ford Coppola. If you haven’t already, read the first review here: “[Review] The Godfather (1972): An Immigrant Story of Succession”.
“I saw a strange thing today. Some rebels were being arrested. One of them pulled the pin on a grenade. He took himself and the captain of the command with him. Now, soldiers are paid to fight; the rebels aren’t.”
“What does that tell you?”
“They could win.”
Becoming The Monster Child: Michael Corleone (Based on Part I & II)
The Godfather 2 (1974) is a sequel to the groundbreaking first film The Godfather; however, it would be an insult to call it a continuation. The film intertwines the lives of Michael’s father Don Corleone (as Robert De Niro) and his most favored son and heir Michael (as Al Pacino). While the audience watches Michael advancing his position as Don and the respected crime leader, the film is more about Don Vito Corleone’s past and its impact on Michael. [Spoiler ahead]
It is revealed that Vito Corleone is the son of Antonio Andolini who was murdered by Sicilian mafia (Don Ciccio) because Antonio refused to accept his superiority. They murder Vito’s brother and mother, and Vito is sent to America by some family relatives to protect him from sharing a similar fate to his dead family. In America, Vito grows up to be a good man; he earns a fair living, has a lovely wife and children. However, when the neighborhood mafia takes his job away he meets Clemenza, who lives off stealing and teaches him the concept of doing so called favors and receiving favors in return (we are familiar with the importance of favors from the first film). When the Mafia expects Vito and his new business partners to pay respect and money to him, Vito murders him. Vito is a survivor; he feels that he has to be strong to provide for his family. However, one dead body becomes ten, twenty, and many more, justified by his need to float in the Italian neighborhood.
As the audience explores the past, they also realize that Michael was always the star child who would make Vito proud. While the first film hints that Vito expects Michael to be a big shot like a senator and perhaps, change the family history, it also seems that he always had his plans for Michael and would not be letting him make his own decisions. In a scene from the past Tom says, “…Father had plans for you. For many times, he and I talked about your future”. After the conversation, the whole family leaves the table and Michael is the only one left alone. This perhaps predicts his lonely future.
As the quote above summarizes, Michael’s father was a strong man who built his own crime business based on the concept of loyalty. His men weren’t paid, they were his rebels, and his family. Michael continues to do crime business like his father, forming loyal bonds. However, Michael loses his family unlike Vito who never willingly does. It is justified that Vito gets involved with small crimes to survive, which goes too far and turns him blind towards his actions. In The Godfather (1972), Michael kills his sister Connie’s husband; in The Godfather Part II (1974) he kills his own brother Fredo and pushes away his wife. In other words, he willingly loses people whom are closest to him. However, it should be noted that Michael does not fully repeat the patterns of his father’s life, and that is crucial to mark their difference. He becomes a real monster because he crosses the line his father never does— Michael kills family.
The Role of Women in The Godfather Part II: Kay and Connie Corleone
“It wasn’t a miscarriage. And you with your cunning, couldn’t you figure it out! It was an abortion; an abortion, like our marriage is an abortion, something unholy and evil. I don’t want your son; I wouldn’t bring another of your sons into this world. An abortion, Michael… it was a son and I had it killed, but this must all end!”
The Godfather tells the story of a patriarchal family—in fact, there isn’t much of a place for women in the script. It isn’t until The Godfather Part II that the audience is introduced to Vito Corleone’s wife. She is mostly seen through her youth, being a loving, quiet wife who seems to be happy that his husband is doing favors for the neighbors. It is never explored in the script how and when she realizes the true nature of his business.
Likewise, the female child of the family, Connie Corleone, does not show a debt of personality; she simply fulfills her function as an unhappy and abused wife in the first film until Michael kills Connie’s husband. In The Godfather Part II, Connie becomes the opposite of herself: a recovering victim who spends money lavishly with different men and does not care for her children. It seems that mama Corleone’s death and Kay’s leaving is a turning point for Connie. In the beginning, Connie refuses Michael’s new role in the family because it does not make sense that her little brother is taking the place of his father. In the end, she accepts that Michael and his father simply changed roles and decides to be like her old self who is used to taking care of troubled men.
The only female character that seems to be capable of forming her own opinions is Kay (as Diane Keaton), Michael’s longtime girlfriend (The Godfather), and wife (The Godfather Part II). In the first film, Kay believes that Michael can legitimize the Corleone family business and detach it from its criminal associations. In the sequel, she realizes what Michael has turned into, and calls him off. There is a contrast in the portrayal of Italian and American women in both films, although much heavier in the second one. Kay represents the free American women who can ask questions, stay if they want to and decide to leave when they need to. Indeed, Michael and Kay’s marriage is not arranged unlike the norm in the family, and it could be true to say pre-Don Michael loves Kay because she gives him hope of a different future. When Michael fails to change, Kay decides to leave saying she does not love him anymore. As the quote above states, Kay goes as far as to get an abortion while a member of a Catholic family in the 1950s. From a different angle, I think this is her last attempt at curing Michael’s blindness, but she fails miserably. Michael cuts Kay off, and Connie becomes what her mother once was—a proud woman who will stay by the side of the powerful man.
The Godfather Part II is a sequel that adds quality details to its masterfully established story; it does not disappoint the viewer.
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