Good Time

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I walked out of my screening of Good Time — the Benny and Josh Safdie-directed follow-up to 2014’s Heaven Knows What — with a divided viewing party. Some were stunned and frustrated by the film, while the majority were exhilarated, and a little bit blown away.

I was in the latter group. Good Time is not a film for everybody. It is not necessarily — wait for it — a “good time”. But it is an excellent film, one that starts quietly, and abruptly, and one that gradually annihilates the control of its characters, and sees them spinning further toward almost guaranteed destruction, and further away from the freedom they strive toward.

The film is about two brothers, Connie (played by Robert Pattinson) and Nick Nikas (played by co-director Benny Safdie), embroiled in a scuzzy crime scene. Connie is older, street-wise, and unafraid of breaking the law; Nick is mentally disabled with impaired hearing, and needs professional care to help him function in society, as his brother and family appear unequipped to give him the tools he needs. The first time we see what this film is capable of is less than five minutes in, when Connie explosively interrupts Nick’s psychologist assessment, right as we’re beginning to understand the complexities of Nick’s illness, and right as the psychologist is beginning to make headway. Connie disapproves of this method of Nick seeking help — after all, he would do anything for his brother, doesn’t he know that? Instead, he has a plan for them to rob a bank.

That their bank robbery doesn’t go well should be no surprise, as it occurs in the first act of the film. The Nikas’s are exposed when a packet of red dye explodes in their getaway cab, and they are unceremoniously ejected onto the New York city sidewalk. They are noticed immediately by a nearby patrol car, and Nick runs, forcing the pair into an awkward chase scene, where they eventually separate. Nick, panicked without his brother, dives through a glass door, and is promptly arrested.

Connie throws himself fully into trying to free his brother from prison, where he believes Nick will unequivocally be targeted (proven to be true in a particularly harrowing scene, which lands Nick in the hospital). Jennifer Jason-Leigh appears in a disappointingly small role as Connie’s girlfriend, Corey, who essentially functions for him as a cash cow, but who is too infatuated with him to mind.

One particular criticism I would level at this film is its poorly drawn female characters. I counted two with meaty, speaking parts; one of whom is an underage, sixteen-year-old girl who flirts and makes out with the very much older and adult Connie, but who then is ditched when no longer useful. It can be all too easy to accept that complex female characters and womanhood don’t exist in a world such as Good Time, when the film doesn’t pause long enough to pay attention to them, but these women existing only in the margins to serve the men who are front and centre is frustrating, even for a film as good as this one.

That aside, Connie’s gambit to free his brother is endlessly engaging and powerful, driven by Pattinson’s dogged, visceral performance as Connie. As the film hurtles towards its tangled final act, it becomes all too clear that Connie’s way of protecting his brother shouldn’t be getting him out of jail, but getting as far away from him as possible.

Good Time trusts you to make up your mind about the journey it embarks upon, but it doesn’t pull any punches while getting there.

Good Time 
In cinemas now
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