In this essay I will be looking at how Goodfellas conforms to the Hollywood tradition of using the film noir style in conveying a gangster story, as well as how it differs from the tradition.
The story begins by showing a Brooklyn kid's desire to be a gangster as a respected means to the American Dream; a life choice no different from wanting to be a fireman. Of course the boy's parents did not agree and he was starting fires, not putting them out. This was the movies first difference from the film noir approach. This is more light-hearted than usually portrayed by film makers of crime dramas. The story goes on to tell of how the boy forewent normal school to learn the dos and don'ts of the mob. Although crime was definitely shown in Goodfellas, it was presented as being
rewarding and mutually beneficial to all involved. It was presented as an opportunity open to anyone smart enough to get involved. That included crossing guards, truck drivers and cops. The narrator referred to it as glories times. Presenting crime with crossing moms from the elementary school, not just rough looking bad guys, reinforced the lighter touch to a crime drama. There was strong comedy included in the beginning and continued throughout the film. When violence was depicted there was a break in the action, often a pause, not to prolong the violence but to somewhat soften the impact or shock value.
As most movies do, the music played a memorable role in presenting the scene. The music gave an upbeat to the movie. The songs if heard on the radio will bring the movie to mind. Often in traditional film noir the music catered drama and suspense to the movie.
In the tradition of film noir the Goodfellas appealed the public's fascination with criminals and their life style. Goodfellas, is the story of Henry Hill, his family, and associates. Because facts in the story are verifiable, the fascination to the movie was stronger. The main character, Henry Hill was portrayed as a goodfella who simply sold a "little" drugs, cheated a "little" on his wife, lied a "little" to those who trusted him, stole as much as he could, but never really hurt anyone. So he really was not a bad guy. This allowed the audience to give him favor and want to see him come out unscathed. These things were excepted behavior. For most of guys in the movie, killing got to be accepted. Henry never spoke of or was shown killing anyone, which again is not normal film noir style.
Another avenue most gangster movies explore is one of cultures. Whether it is an Italian, Irish, Puerto Rican, Mexican, Jamaican, or African gang, cultural differences and traditions are always addressed. Culture was included as part of the traditional film noir style. In this film it was Italian and Irish cultures. It was mentioned throughout the movie to explain a deeper meaning of different scenes.
Centered in most gangster movies that follow the film noir style are conflicts involving self interest, morality, legality and the very thin line drawn between them. Goodfellas was not an exception to this rule. This was the theme of the movie. From beginning to the end the narrator spoke of what was acceptable in protecting one's own interest and the interest of the mob. His first pinched was celebrated because he did not rat on his friends. Paulie understood what was done while in prison to