Thought I'd do a little commentary on "Goodfellas." No real spoilers here.
First off, I loved the movie. However, I have to say that the Godfather movies are still my favorite Mob movies. I just loved the whole "family" concept, the traditions, that sort of thing. While there's some of that in this movie, these guys are not a part of the Sicilian family, and with the Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro characters both being half-Irish, they can never be "made," or become part of the family.
There was still plenty of intrigue, though! Alliances and partnerships forged and shattered (sha-doobie), mistresses (or goomars--I've learned a few things from "The Sopranos"), drugs, guns, and living the high life of a big-time gangster.
In fact, Karen Hill (quoted above), the main character's wife, is echoed years later in Carmela Soprano. In some ways, they despise what their husbands do (and there's no playing dumb--they know exactly what is going on), but that feeling is trumped by the fact that they love the rewards that it brings them: power, jewels, beautiful homes, and a certain cachet within the"family." Karen puts up with Henry's infidelities, drug use, and illegal activities, just as Carmela puts up with Tony's (except Tony didn't get into drugs).
Okay, just a short spoiler here.
Drugs end up being Henry's downfall, as he gets deeper and deeper into them, making mistakes and taking chances. As things continue to spiral downwards, he believes (rightly) that his colleagues are planning to whack him, and chooses to testify against them and enter the Witness Protection Program. As a result of his testimony, the De Niro and Paul Sorvino characters go to prison, and Henry and Karen are shipped off to live the lives of, in his words, "...an average nobody... get to live the rest of my life like a schnook." And the Joe Pesci character, Tommy, ends up paying for his psychotic behavior.
End of spoilers
What a great bunch of characters and incredible acting. I thought Ray Liotta was great as Henry Hill and Lorraine Bracco was perfect as his wife Karen, Paul Sorvino was appropriately menacing and low-key, and De Niro is...well, he's Robert De Niro. Don't need to say much more than that! But for me, the read standout was the crazy little Joe Pesci as the volatile and unpredictable Tommy DeVito. The guy is just nuts, and nobody does it better. I'm looking forward to watching him play another crazy in yet another Mob movie: "Casino." (I've seen that one, but it's been a while. A little bit of Beth trivia: someone I knew in my "previous life," i.e., before I met Ken, has a minor role in that movie.)
The closing scenes intrigued me, because they made it sound like these were real people. I Googled "Henry Hill," and I found out that this is based on a real person and a true story! I really did not know that. It's based on the book Wise Guy by Nicholas Pileggi, who also wrote the screenplay. (Yet another book to add to my list.) The names of most of the characters have been changed, although they're based on actual people, but Henry and Karen Hill are real people. And even MORE intriguing is that after he was booted from the Witness Protection Program for continued drug usage, he is now doing aradio show and selling his artwork on eBay.
Only in America.