Singling out one scene from Goodfellas, which eschews traditional narrative structure and instead requires viewers to infer the film’s meaning on a scene-by-scene basis, is a sucker’s game. Each scene ingeniously contributes to Martin Scorsese’s vision of an idler’s dystopia: a Big Rock Candy Mountain, located in Brooklyn in the Fifties (1954-63), where they took the jerk who invented work out into the alley and put a bullet in his head.
However, the brief and wordless scene [above], set at the Airline Diner (supposedly near Idlewild Airport; it’s actually near La Guardia) in 1963, is worth mentioning because it’s one of the few in which we see Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and Tommy DeVito (Joe Pesci) at work in broad daylight. As the blocking suggests, Henry and Tommy don’t distinguish between work and leisure: as a result, they’re deeply engaged, and enjoying themselves. Any scholar who studies this topic will tell you that this is what idleness is about.
Though Scorsese, who postponed Goodfellas to make a movie about one of history’s greatest idlers (Jesus), doesn’t rationalize crime and violence, he does sympathize with these two idle-wilds. Who refuse to live — as Hill puts it, in the film’s coda — like “schnooks.”