That Scene From ‘Goodfellas’ (1990)

“Hey, have you seen this movie? What did you think about THAT SCENE?!” We have all used that phrase at one point during our discussions of movies with the other person’s eyebrows raising, “Oh yea, THAT SCENE!” You go on to pick that memorable scene apart by listing what you loved or didn’t like, how it made you feel and the impression it left on you. 

In this series, we will do just that. We will take a scene from a movie and discuss its impact on us. Some of these scenes may be frightening, weird, iconic, controversial, hilarious, and everything in between. Let us know your impression of the scene and the impact it left on you the first time you watched it down below in the comments. Enjoy!

 *Warning: May Contain Spoilers*


Movie: Goodfellas (1990)

Scene: The Copacabana

THE PLAYERS

Director: Martin Scorsese

Characters: Henry (Ray Liotta), Karen (Lorraine Bracco)

THE SETUP

Young Henry Hill becomes captivated by the lifestyle the criminal world could offer him by witnessing Mafia presence in his working-class Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn. He begins to work for a Mob captain named Paulie while being mentored by one of his associates, Jimmy Conway. Henry befriends Tommy Devito and begins to enjoy the spoils of this world he entered. He becomes infatuated by a lovely young lady named Karen, who he wants to impress while on a date so he takes her to the Copacabana. An upscale nightclub where Henry and many of his associates hang out regularly. This brings us to our scene.

THAT SCENE

THE EXECUTION

Gangster movies have offered a lot of iconic and defining moments in film history but arguably none are better than this single-take shot and the fact that there was not even a hint of violence in sight. The cinematography and storytelling done in just three minutes is a masterwork. Henry is not only trying to impress and seduce Karen but we also see Henry being enamored with the lifestyle and power he possessed. The Steadicam work is on point as it follows the couple from the street, downstairs, through a chaotic kitchen, and to their table. Ray Liotta improvised a lot of his actions and dialogue from the tipping to giving the kissing couple a hard time. Steadicam operator Larry McConkey gives some incredible insight into how this scene was able to work and how he navigated issues to make sure this turned out well shot.

One of the trickiest maneuvers they did was when the entered the kitchen, they basically did a big circle and exited the same way they entered with some well-timed extra swaps. The Crystals “Then He Kissed Me” helped keep a certain vibrance and levity to the whole thing that helped tie the whole scene together. In just eight takes, cinema history was made and all involved put on a masterclass for others to try and emulate.


What do you think of this scene?

Author: Vincent Kane

I hate things.