Directors: Ben and Josh Safdie/2017
Robert Pattinson takes on a career defining role in Directors Ben and Josh Safdie’s new film Good Time. I was able to attend a screening at the Alamo Drafthouse-Houston where afterwards, both of the Safdies, Pattinson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, as well as other actors in the film, and the music composer, also appeared via satellite to discuss the film and take questions via Twitter at this Q&A. This helped bring a little bit more insight into the film, the aim of the directors, as well as hear from Pattinson about his approach to this film, which he did after The Lost City of Z.
Good Time defies a lot of the conventions one might expect in a heist film and creates instead an intentionally-chaotic chase film with elements of pulp and noir only turned up to 11.
Both directors explained that while Good Time is a heist-film-gone-bad, at its core, they were less concerned about making a traditional genre film and more interested in pushing each scene to the point of chaos without losing the story and fluidity that goes from moment to moment in the film. Oneohtrix Point Never, a.k.a. Daniel Lopatin, composes a score that helps add to the vibe that the Safdie’s were looking for. Robert Pattinson plays Connie Nikas, a young criminal who has recruited his younger mentally-handicapped brother Nick (Benny Safdie), to abandon his counseling session to discuss a fit of rage he displayed to an older family member, to help Connie rob a bank.
Pattinson’s appearance on screen comes quick in the middle of an intentionally slow and intense opening scene as the door flies open and Nick is whisked away to do this crime. The film continues at this pace until nearly the end of the film. When the robbery goes wrong and Nick is taken in to be booked and charged, Connie risks everything to find a way to free his brother, all while trying to avoid those who are after him. Good Time is about the details of this quest.
While Pattinson is still recognizable as the movie star he is, he is able to disappear into the character and create a role that is unlike any that he has played before. Ever the British actor, he does a very impressive Queens, New York accent that even got kudos in the Q&A from Queens actor and Pattinson’s co-star, Buddy Duress, who plays Ray, a fellow thief whose story gets linked up with Connie’s.
When Nick gets nabbed, Connie learns he needs $10,000 to get the bail bondsman to help him get Nick released. After trying to hit up his older girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who has some mental issues of her own, for the cash to free his brother, Connie is desperate after that falls through. Along the way, he also seduces 16-year old Crystal (introducing newcomer Taliah Webster), to help him accomplish his tasks. As a first time actor, she puts on a strong performance, and seemed very excited as she discussed her first film at the Q&A.
There are many things going on in each scene, and organized chaos is a good way to describe the film in a good way, as it compliments the vision the Safdie’s expressed. There are also several social commentaries floating through each scene that won’t always be comfortable for the audience including a huge subtext on race starting when Connie and Nick put on rubber or latex masks of African-American men to commit their crime, opening up the whole conversation about this being a modern form of blackface. Other black and white racial components enter into the proceedings as you see how Connie manipulates several African-American individuals to help him along the way, including Crystal, and how he treats the amusement park security guard played by Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips).
There are also looks at socio-economic issues and its relationship to crime. On the subject of gender, it would be a worthwhile discussion to mention why the two main women in Connie’s life, Corey and Crystal, are both victims in their roles without an opportunity to rise above the situations they find themselves in as Connie uses them for his own gain. The look on Taliah Webster’s face when she realizes what Connie has done to her is priceless and powerful, however.
Good Time defies a lot of the conventions one might expect in a heist film and creates instead an intentionally-chaotic chase film with elements of pulp and noir only turned up to 11. It uses the absurdity it creates to generate its own heat and rhythm that will certainly stand out from everything else that has been released this summer. It may not have mass appeal, but it will find a strong core audience who will eat up its humor and aesthetic as the Safdie’s demonstrate that they have something unique to share with the world through their creativity and vision. Their find of Buddy Durress for their film Heaven Knows What pays big dividends in Good Time, especially as he counter-balances Pattinson’s take on Connie. Good Time isn’t as lighthearted and care-free as its title suggests, but many will find that it is just that: a good time.
Good Time opens on August 25, 2017.