Goodfellas

AFI Rank: #94
Year Released: 1990
Director: Martin Scorsese
Actors: Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesce

Interestingly, I rewatched Goodfellas, #94 on the AFI top 100, right after rewatching A Clockwork Orange, #46 on the AFI top 100. Both are about an enthusiasm for violence. Both tie music into what is going on with the plot. Watching them back to back, even accepting how "groundbreaking" A Clockwork Orange is with its alternate universe and its invented language, I still think Goodfellas should rank far higher than it. The acting, the plot, and the insight in Goodfellas is simply phenomenal.

First, we start with the actors. In A Clockwork Orange there is Malcolm McDowell, and while he's good, I'm not sure one person alone can stand up to Robert De Niro, Lorraine Bracco, Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci, and the many other fantastic actors that are everywhere you turn in Goodfellas. Every single person is simply amazing. Even the "bit parts" like Michael Imperioli's "Spider" character get you interested. You are watching the very best of the best.

And what they are playing is a real life story. This isn't an invention or fantasy. This really happened. These characters, their intrigues, their lies and deceptions and lust for violence, all of this was real. The men joking around with the mistress while the wife went to the family functions, the assumption that violence could happen at any time, this was the life they lived in.

The music here is simply phenomenal. It sets you into the timeframe, and you can literally watch as the years unroll. It's not just the music, it's the hair styles, the cars, the decor of the rooms, everything. You can feel yourself reliving the decades and the feelings that they brought.

The characters evolve over time. They rebel and feel angst and come to accept and then embrace what is happening around them.

It's interesting because there's the same lust for violence here as in A Clockwork Orange. The characters enjoy pummeling another person. When Lorraine's character is roughed up by a neighborhood slick-guy, and Ray goes in to teach him a lesson, Ray *wants* to beat him up and put him in his place. When Joe feels disrespected in the bar, he wants to beat the guy into a bloody pulp, and he does. The violence is a normal, natural part of life.

The women, unfortunately, hold the same be-used-and-often role in this movie as well. Women are there to be wives, kicking out kids and attending functions, or as mistresses, proving sex. In both cases they are supposed to be good natured, appreciate their part, and not attempt to change anything. A woman who complains at all about the small portion of life she's allowed can be beaten or worse.

Still, I do at least give Goodfellas credit for giving part of the story through Lorraine's eyes. We see how hard it was for her, as the wife, to know there was a mistress around, that she "lost" her husband for days a week into that woman's arms, and that there was nothing she could do about it. She couldn't divorce, she couldn't complain. She just had to take it. The only other women she could ever talk with were other mob wives in the exact same situation. All the advice she got was "at least he's not in jail".

However, in terms of the Bechdel test, it fails. The women rarely talk with each other, and when they do, it's about their men.

A powerful look into a very real segment of society - and as much as it glamorizes how nice it was at times to be in a mob environment, it also shows the darker underside of it. While it might be fun while it lasted, it didn't necessarily last long.

A great, powerful, well acted film. Well worth watching.

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AFI Top 100 Film Listing
Male vs Female Actors in the AFI Top 100
The Bechdel Test in the AFI Top 100