The buzz about Good Time was well-established before the film went wide last week. Not only praise for its star, Robert Pattinson, yes, that Robert Pattinson, the Twilight vampire Robert Pattinson, but for its writer-director team behind the project. I was able to entice a friend to see it (without their having ever heard of it) because they found its 88% fresh rating on RottenTomatoes. Pattinson’s praise is deserved, obviously, the moment your journey into Good Time begins. And it is a journey, one that will have you raptly knuckling your hands, tensing your feet for impact, or fiddling with whatever bit of hair you can grab be it head or beard; the movie consumes you, not the other way around. The Safdie Brothers (Josh and Ben), the duo behind the film, entone that they hope they’re not hated for creating it because they’re just speaking the truth. Yes, but it’s a truth, I suspect, that most would rather forget. And here’s where Pattinson’s praise is due: not only is it his most refreshing, mold-breaking role to date, he consumes it too, becoming the low-life hustler he portrays so wholly and effectively that you forget the word vampire was ever attached to his name, an astounding feet, as this character is the sort of life-leeching parasite the word vampire has never more appropriately been used to describe.
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Director: The Safdie Brothers
Release Date: September 1, 2017
Fair warnings, they’ll be no revelation as to what the good time is. That’s for you to see. Good Time begins with one slow respire, one moment for you to breath deep, fill your lungs to bursting, and plunge under for the ride through humanity’s worst impulses of manipulation, predation, and violence. But you take that breath and we’re off, following brothers Connie Nikas (Pattinson) and Nick Nickas (Ben Safdie) as would-be bank robbers. I say would-be because one of their careers is cut pitifully short. Let’s be honest, not Robert Pattinson’s; it’s not that short a movie.
In terms of story, we’re getting a real glance into a single day inside the actions of a social manipulator, an individual who’ll say and do whatever it takes to achieve his ends, in this case, freeing his mentally handicapped brother from prison and evading law enforcement while he does. And I mean anything. Whichever situation arises, Connie has the right turn of phrase or verbal maneuver ready to allay suspicion or steer the human beings around him to his desired destination. He’s the sort of individual we all know is out there but never hope to meet–a low-level operator who wouldn’t hesitate to throw you in front of a bus (literally) if it helped him steal your wallet and get away with it. In his view, and the subsequent view of the film, humanity isn’t a thing to be valued, but rather, one to be exploited whenever possible. Pattinson’s turn in the role is so masterful one must wonder if we’ve not been seeing Connie Nickas acting as Robert Pattinson for all these years, allowing him to be cast in pretty, teen roles that made him a movie star, and not the other way around. Honestly, I’d not be surprised, now.
Connie’s one redeeming quality is his professed love for his brother, but professions, words, often speak demurely in the presence of actions. And while Connie may tell Nick he’d never have been able to rob a bank without him standing strong beside him, this is less a qualifier of love than an honest statement of tangible need, one that demonstrates he’s using his handicapped brother as he uses everyone else.
The story pursues Connie attempting to raise bail money to get Nick free from prison, where Connie fears he’ll be hurt or killed imminently. Connie employs every type of manipulation imaginable, moving from coercion, to lying, to violence as necessary. And while Pattinson’s normal quaffed hair is turned down to embody Connie, his character still exhibits the due rough charm to guile women at the right moment. It’s all highly believable, and it’s all expertly laid out to maximize suspense as events unfold. While the stakes are never that high for the audience, they can be no higher for our petty characters and you view the movie feeling that imminent weight.
The film’s gravitas is more attributable to good storytelling that filmmaking style or aesthetics. Yes, the film is filled with every touch imaginable that’s very hip right now. There’s the requisite handheld moment. The requisite grainy film look. The requisite blue and red tonalities cast on skin in dark and moody settings. The throwback neons, and even clothing as Pattison’s street-wise Connie sports clothing seemingly straight out of early 90s nostalgia. I found it ensconces the film nicely, but is not instrumental to its success. Credit the writing and pacing there, as well as the phenomenal acting from the cast. Most anyone else who finds their way onscreen is deserving of it
It’s not a redemption tale, or one where anyone gets away happy. It offers small, again, realistic, happiness in that Connie may see that he’s been lying to himself as well as everyone else. He (when left without other options) allows his brother to end up back where he started, perhaps headed somewhere other than prison and to a brighter future (and successfully keeps him out of jail–maybe there was some real love after all).
The movie deserves its praise, but I’d hurry to see it in theaters (where I imagine the action and intensity will out perform home theater or a laptop), like some other high-praise, award-circuit films that deliver heavy-hitting realism, it’s probably not a film you’ll find yourself hankering to re-watch, often. I know I won’t. But kudos, again, to Robert Pattinson; expect more great turns from him to come.