Every time I sit down to write about my Blindspot pick, I get this writer’s block thing. It’s like, I’m scared to speak my mind about these well loved movies without sounding like an idiot. Because most of these movies in my Blindspot list are very much adored by bloggers and regular movie lovers. This also applies to Goodfellas, a 1990 Martin Scorsese film based on real events.
While there are many gangster/mob movies out there, it seems that I have stayed away from most of them throughout my life. And maybe it’s because of the fact that I don’t gravitate towards them naturally, that I had somehow not seen Goodfellas. It’s not that the themes and topics of these movies aren’t interesting. It’s actually quite the opposite. But I simply do not think about mob movies as something that I would watch just because. I know, something is definitely wrong with me.
Anyway, Goodfellas, like I said, is based on real life mobster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his involvement in the Italian-American crime syndicate. The film mostly follows him, his partners and his wife Karen (Lorraine Bracco). As the only female lead, Bracco stands out from the male dominated movie every time she’s on the screen. The movie does a good job at introducing us characters and explains the motivation behind Hill’s need to be among the mob-family. Yet underneath the care and attention this family has for each other, there is also an unspoken danger.
The plot of the movie spans from Hill’s early teenage years until his deal with the FBI. The pacing of the plot is not fast, nor does it shy away from showing the “mundane” aspects of being among a mob-family. While the beginning was compelling, the middle part for me, and I will get hate for this, felt like a tiny hill I had to get over. But that’s just my attention span speaking, trust me, there’s nothing actually boring about Goodfellas. And if anything, I’m glad I distanced myself a bit before the final act because that’s when Goodfellas really delivered for me.
The day Hill got arrested, narrated by Liotta, was like a surreal dream. A lot going on, so many details added, not just visually but especially in the script. The script simply took its time to build up the momentum. Hell, I was actually worried the sauce was going to get burnt because it was so casually highlighted. It was this day, this specific storyline that really somehow resinated with me. It was that Hill’s life was always so controlled and guided by the rules dictated through the mob. And those rules reflected in all aspects of his life. The sauce was just a symbol to reflect that need to be perfect all the time.
“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a gangster.”
– Henry Hill
As far as the cast goes, I think it’s hard to find a weak link. Ray Liotta, who was fairly unknown at the time, was brilliant. It’s always hard to fault Robert De Niro in anything. And Joe Pesci perfectly stood out because of all the craziness. I already praised Lorraine Bracco, who I know from Rizzoli and Isles, but I just have to add that her voice is like honey. It’s so different and smooth, that I found myself drawn into the narration even more when she was ralking.
Finally, because it’s obvious, I must give a nod to Scorsese. Naturally I expect a lot from him, but I also think it is important to be surprised. And yes, most of the Goodfellas is visually consistent, but the scene where they were digging up the corpse was anything but expected. The contrast red and the act itself were symbolic. It was also so distant from the rest of the movie that I actually love that scene more because it was so different.
Now while I think my favourite Scorsese movie is still The Departed, (though I do have Taxi Driver in my Blindspot this year), Goodfellas is still a really good movie. It does a great job at showing the family side of the mob life. Taking the focus off the crimes, which do happen here and there on the screen, Goodfellas showcases the care and support these gangsters had for each other. Sure, it was all for the wrong reasons really, but their bond was beyond the grave digging and drug smuggling. It was, for the lack of a better word, a bond formed by unconditional love for you family.