' Cinema Romantico: Is Don Jr. Fredo, or Is He Someone Else?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Is Don Jr. Fredo, or Is He Someone Else?

The biggest plot twist so far of the bewildering, depressing soap opera currently engulfing the country where I live took place on Tuesday when President Donald Trump’s son, the appropriately named Donald Trump Jr., was discovered to have exchanged emails with a Russian lawyer in an attempt to dig up dirt on his father’s Presidential election rival Hillary Clinton. The emails contained a subject line so obviously incriminating (“Russia – Clinton – private and confidential”) that I actually was, for once, tempted to think it might really be FAKE NEWS™ since no one in his position could be dimwitted enough to so egregiously fail at covering his tracks. Except that Don Jr., in a moment that briefly threatened total protonic reversal, tweeted the emails out himself, seeming to mark him as so out of his depth that the internet practically exploded with innumerable comparisons of Don Jr. to Fredo Corleone, the infamously hapless and pitiful middle brother of “The Godfather.”


Philip Delves Broughton wrote this for The Evening Standard and George Takei tweeted it and The American Conservative wrote “Fredo Trump Futzes Up”, though some reports indicated that actual Trump aides were already calling Don Jr. Fredo, though probably not to his face. In writing for Vanity Fair, Yohana Desta works through this Fredo theory, writing that Don Jr. “believes himself to be the canny, ruthlessly efficient Michael—or at least a brash, manly Sonny” which, Desta, reckons “makes Junior the truest Fredo”, before reaching the theory that all the Trump kids probably fancy themselves Michael which makes them all Fredo. That’s a theory falling in line with The Daily Beast’s Erin Gloria Ryan who tweeted “I’ve long wondered who the Fredo of the Trump family is and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s just a family of Fredos.” In grappling with the Fredo theory for Slate, however, Sam Adams sees calling Don Jr. Fredo as an insult to Fredo. And that is to say, it’s an insult to the late actor who portrayed Fredo, John Cazale, who may have been playing a character that was, as no less an authority than Wikipedia says so succinctly, “not very bright”, but wrung empathy anyway, a sad sack just looking for respect, raised to the level of tragedy rather than dunderheadedry (sic).

And so I think that to find Don Jr.’s true equivalent we have to turn away from “The Godfather” and to another mob movie – no, not “Goodfellas”, though if you told me that Don Jr. bought a fur coat for his wife after explicitly being told not to, a la Frankie Carbone, I would definitely not say you were wrong. I am thinking of another Martin Scorsese mob film, 1995’s “Casino.” There Robert DeNiro’s Sam “Ace” Rothstein is sent to Las Vegas on behalf of the Chicago Mob, building the Tangiers Casino up into something formidable, only to discover the frustrating necessity of having to keep, as he says in voiceover, “a few juiced-in local cowboys working.”


That includes Don Ward, “just another dumb fucking white man”, who only gets his job on the floor of Sam’s casino because he’s the county commissioner’s cousin. Later, when Sam is forced to fire Don Ward, the aforementioned county commissioner, Pat Webb (L.Q. Jones), pays Sam a visit to ask for Don’s job back. And not necessarily because he likes Don or because he thinks Don is a good employee, mind you. As Webb says himself with a chuckle, “Old Don is as useless a tits on a boar.” It’s simply that Don is family and because Don is family he deserves a job, even if his spectacular incompetence, as Sam says, jeopardizes the whole place.

Don Ward is not empathetic nor a tragic figure in a romanticized mafia opera. Don Ward is just a dumb lug who is where he is because of who he is, nothing more, so easily expendable yet utterly and exasperatingly indispensable. That is our Don Jr.

Then again, maybe Don Jr. is merely “Jackie Brown’s” Beaumont Livingston, dumb enough to climb into that trunk and seal his own fate, and already gone by the end of the first reel.

1 comment:

mercatiwriter@aol.com said...

Yes, Donald Jr is Fredo. A perfect likeness.

The other son looks like a member of the KGB.

And the son-in-law, he's just plain creepy.
Creepy in a different way from Pence.

Sort of like Goebbels, Goring, Himmler ..