If you ask the people who were actually part of these Italian crime families in New York in the 1960s and 1970s when Goodfellas takes place, they’ll tell you watching this movie is like watching their lives take place on the big screen. Henry Hill, who was played by Ray Liotta, who a lot of this movie is based on and Henry’s life, would tell you this movie is a true story. And what I would add to that is that it’s a true comedy, or at the very least a true dramatic comedy. Because this is not just perhaps the best Italian Mafia movie of all-time, but I believe also one of the funniest movies of all-time.
I talked a lot about this about the piece about Joe Pesci with David Letterman. But a lot of the humor in this movie is improvisational. Here is this very true story about some really bad people who have all killed a lot of people in their lives. Most of those people being bad people, but still guilty of a lot of murders, but a lot of these characters live such crazy lives and do a lot of dangerous things. And I believe humor is a way that these real-life characters use to get through each day and simply survive. Otherwise they might go crazy always worrying about if your best friend just poisoned your drink, or food trying to whack you, or something. Or is this the day the FBI puts you way, or whatever the case.
And I think Martin Scorsese and his crew meaning his cast especially Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Ray Liotta, who are all great improvisational comedic actors to begin with all saw about the characters that they’re playing. And decide to play their characters as if they’re playing wise assess as well as wise guys and played them like they’re crazy and hysterically funny. If you listen to Ray Liotta narrate the movie, there is one dry joke after another in how he narrates the movie. Like the way he talks about how you cut up a dead body and does it in such a casual way. And to be honest with you I’m not sure if Bob De Niro and Joe Pesci especially when they’re together, are capable of playing a character in a completely straight way. They’re humor always comes out.
Goodfellas, is about the crazy and at times at least the hysterically funny lives of people who work in and out of the Italian Mafia in New York in the 1970s. And even though it is a true story and a dramatic story, it’s still one of the funniest movies ever. And I believe the funniest Mafia movie of all-time. Just because of the characters that these actors play and the actors who play them. Who are all great improvisational comedic actors. And then you throw in the great soundtrack with Eric Clapton, Tony Bennet, Johnny Mathis, The Crystals and many others and you’re talking about really I believe the perfect dramatic comedy movie.
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: Goodfellas- The Making of a Classic