Teen Volunteer Discussion: The Godfather Part II

This summer, Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Starting us off is Elizabeth Choi, a student at Boston Latin School, who recently watched and discussed The Godfather Part II with friends and family. Check out Elizabeth's thoughts on this cinematic classic!

This is a discussion I had with Kevin, Taylor, Josie, Simon, and Charles about The Godfather Part II directed by Francis Ford Coppola. We recently watched it (some of us for the second or third time) after Kevin’s declarations that it was one of his favorite movies.

KEVIN: The Godfather Part II  was extremely entertaining. It takes some paying attention to understand the plot, but I thought it was very well done. I liked the flashbacks of Vito coming to America and growing up in New York. And the intrigue that happens with Hyman Roth, Pentangeli -- just brilliant. There are about 12 different powerful scenes in the movie, like “keep your friends close but your enemies closer,” the abortion scene, and when Michael tells Fredo that he isn’t his brother.

ELIZABETH: Did you like it better than the first one?

KEVIN: It’s equal. I think the second one is a little more difficult to understand.

SIMON: I liked the first one better.

ELIZABETH: When I watched The Godfather Part II a second time, I liked it a lot more than before.

CHARLES: I liked the first one, but it might be because I watched the second one once whereas I’ve seen the first one twice.

TAYLOR: Vito and Michael are two godfathers. But Vito was respected and family is the most important thing for him. He brought them together. That’s why Vito’s children all had respect towards him. So when Michael became godfather, he wanted to be like Vito. He did what he thought Vito would do, but it’s different because of time. When Vito was godfather killing other people was morally wrong, but it worked. In Michael’s time, it doesn’t. What Michael learned from his father were family values. But the way he conducts those principles has to be different. The point is when we take other people’s good lessons, we should try to take the core lessons instead of doing everything the same as they did.

KEVIN: But I don’t know whether Vito would’ve done some of the things Michael did. Michael was very vindictive and brutal. I don’t know whether Vito would’ve killed his own brother.

TAYLOR: I think everybody was loyal to Vito. Vito’s family loves each other and they’re together. But Michael’s family is all over. He has bad relationships with his wife and siblings. I keep thinking about Michael sitting alone and thinking about his father. That remains in my mind. 

JOSIE: The second movie was a little slow and I didn’t find Hyman Roth that interesting. It was darker, though. I liked the juxtaposition of Catholic values versus what actually happened. Like the baptism in the first movie and in the second one with the First Communion. Kay has an abortion and Michael kills his brother.

KEVIN: That’s a good point. I think the director in the first movie put those two things back to back to show the hypocrisy. 

TAYLOR: I agree with Josie about Hyman Roth.

KEVIN: I actually liked him.

SIMON (imitating Kevin): “He’s a really good actor. He’s like a rat, he's always scheming.”

KEVIN: Yeah. I think he played hypocrisy perfectly. The actor played him well, but even Hyman Roth himself was a good actor who says one thing but is really scheming behind the scenes. Michael says something like, “Hyman Roth thinks he’s going to live forever.” He’s literally dying. But to the very end, he was greedy, manipulative… 

TAYLOR: Yeah, it was really well done, but I still liked the first one better.