8/10 Moviegoers are sure to have a Good Time watching this movie!
Maybe. Good Time is a real treat visually, but remains a harsh, grimy crime drama about a horrifying lead character.
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) and his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (Ben Safdie, who co-directs with his own brother, Josh), rob a Queens bank in broad daylight. They almost get away with it, but Nick panics and runs when the police question him. He gets caught, but Connie escapes. The film takes place mostly over the course of one bad night as Connie scrambles to bring $10,000 together for his brother’s bail.
Good Time explores the unequal relationship of the Nikas brothers in the abstract. For most of the movie, Nick isn’t there, and Connie fights to break him out of jail so they can leave the state together. It’s an apt metaphor for their relationship in a broader context — Connie fights bitterly for the idea of his brother as a competent human being, but that’s something that Nick simply will never be. The very first scene of the film sees Connie forcefully pulling Nick out of a social worker’s office, cutting him off from the care he needs because he’s too proud to admit that his brother needs that sort of help.
Connie loves his brother, but Connie’s love is something no one should want. Connie is a serial manipulator, and opens the film by ruthlessly using his brother to pull off a robbery. Over the course of the movie, Connie acts this relationship out with a half-dozen loose allies, lying to and legally jeopardizing one after the other and seeing his machinations fail anyway. Near the end of the film, he finally lashes out at recent ex-con Ray (Buddy Duress), calling him useless and saying that he has to do everything for him.
Careful portrayal of Nick’s disability is crucial to Good Time, and the directors come through smartly. From the moment he hits the screen, Nick’s disability is firmly established as something that has to be taken seriously, and he is established as someone who is just aware enough to know he’s stuck in a rotten situation.
Then Connie bursts into the room and the camera twists and jams itself on his face, an intensely distorted angle it will keep for the rest of the film.
Good Time has a highly distinctive look. It’s composed almost completely of close-ups — very few shots don’t cut off somebody’s forehead or chin — then shifts to some super-wide shots for the dawn flash of violence. The film is grainy, and many shots are bathed in a neon glow. Toward the end of the night, Connie Nikas and Ray invade a small theme park looking for some acid, and the surrealism that seemed to bubble under the film’s surface spills over into the new set.
Good Time debuted last weekend, which was the worst at the box office in 15 years as boxing took eyes and Hurricane Harvey took homes, but a release in fewer than 800 theaters means this wasn’t going for big bucks anyway. It’s the Safdie brothers’ fifth film, but realistically their debut. It’s a solid, distinctive introduction.
Leopold Knopp is a UNT graduate and a syndicated columnist with the Lewisville Texan Journal. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.