A Little-Known Indie Film Curio Dances onto Blu-ray.
DIRECTED BY AZAZEL JACOBS/2005
BLU-RAY STREET DATE: SEPTEMBER 29, 2020/KINO LORBER
“Is that a good movie, or just a bunch of stuff that happened?”
That was the question asked early one Saturday morning back in 1996 on the set of student film I was a part of. It was asked in regard to the Coen Brothers’ Fargo, which had just opened the night before. Being unrelenting film students, no one let a looming bleary-eyed call time keep from the theater the night before. We didn’t see it together, but we all saw it. And that central question was asked.
Everyone in that chat would now acknowledge Fargo as not only a good movie, but among the very best of that decade. Even its unusualness- likely, because of it- the film had an impact on cinema going forward. And yes, Fargo is about something- it took just a little more extra-curricular work to get to the bottom of it. The snow had to settle upon it for us to see the real shape.
Watching Azazel Jacobs’ 2005 low-budget experiment The GoodTimesKid, the old Fargo question occurs to me. Is this a good movie, or is it just a bunch of stuff that happened? Don’t mistake the thought for anything more; idiosyncratic plot and characters aside, The GoodTimesKid is no Fargo. Nor is it quite on the level of its more obvious inspirations, the wry minimalism of early Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise) or the sardonic dark humor of Aki Kaurismäki (The Other Side of Hope). But it does succeed in a certain esoteric magnetism, harnessed fully from its fully committed cast of aspiring, unafraid twenty-somethings.
Unlike Fargo, The GoodTimesKid is an early effort by its maker, and an obviously early one at that. On his newly recorded audio commentary track, director Jacobs is forthright about the twelve-day no-budget loosey-goosey off-the-radar nature of the project. A skeleton crew that includes the onscreen talent did all the work as the film was shot on a very finite amount leftover film (“short ends”, it’s called) from an unnamed major production. Watching The GoodTimesKid, none of that comes as a shock.
Sara Diaz as the unnamed “Diaz” is real charmer of the piece, a kind of slacker-generation Shelley Duvall. She does her weird dance, ends up in the water at night, and effectively cultivates confusion between the two guys in her life. The first of said guys, Rodolfo Cano, is played by the director himself, who Diaz was apparently also romantically involved with at the time of filming. It’s his birthday, and despite her best efforts, he’s pissed off at the world. We soon learn a reason why.
The second guy in Diaz’s life is someone she just met as he literally wandered into her open door. Played by fellow director Gerardo Naranjo with a curious stone face, he doesn’t do much and says even less. But when he does act, the often-meandering film (even at its scant seventy-two minutes) finds its payoff. It turns out that The GoodTimesKids is indeed about something. Though like Fargo, that wasn’t immediately apparent.
What Diaz doesn’t know is that the mysterious second guy who wandered in is also named Rodolfo Cano. (What are the odds??) He lives in a boat, doesn’t comb his hair, and smokes a lot of cigarettes. He’s received her boyfriend’s U.S. Army enlistment papers by mistake and is simply trying to follow up on the snafu. Diaz doesn’t know about that, either. Nevertheless, she’s clearly drawn to this Rodolfo Cano.
The GoodTimesKid is up its own butt and awash in its own assumed profundity by virtue of the creative freedom enjoyed in making it. (No unions [Too small!], no studios [Who’d want it?], no meddlers [Who’d understand it?], et cetra). But, in such areas, it’s apparently nothing compared to its predecessor, Nobody Needs to Know. Jacobs describes the non-reception of that 2003 feature debut as a crushing disappointment, as he viewed it as a next-phase epoch-marker in the art of filmmaking. Yeah… the threshold of his own expectations needed be lowered quite a bit. At least on some level, he knew it.
In u-turning into an almost freeform film such as this one, Jacobs the aspiring artiste (son of noted experimental filmmaker Ken Jacobs, I should add) found his footing, enabling him to presumably get over himself. Thus, the door was opened to what is now a formidable career, having directed 2011’s offbeat Terri, 2017’s higher profile The Lovers, and 2020’s French Exit starring Michelle Pfeiffer. It’s all very good fortune for him, as The GoodTimeKid, while not bad, isn’t the kind of thing that necessarily beacons to Hollywood.
Kino Lorber’s Blu-ray of The GoodTimesKid features restored picture and sound. Bonus features include an automated stills gallery, the film’s trailer, and the aforementioned audio commentary by Jacobs. Not everyone will have a good time with this film, but for those inclined towards films which reside off the beaten path, this is worth enlisting for. You might just find it to be an undeniable throwback to when the toil of filmmaking was nothing but promise, freedom, and bunch of stuff happening.