Good Time

Good Time ★★★★½

"Don't be confused. It's only gonna make it worse for me."

Mania on 35mm. Think Dog Day Afternoon under bright neon lights, and with twice the desperation. It's loud and angry, but not overbearing. It gives you some time to catch your breath, but there's no time to get comfortable before it picks up the pace again. The energy here is so raw and dirty without coming across as incoherent or without purpose. I've seen some complaints that the film loses its way after the first act, but if it had continued at the same rhythm, I would've exploded. I was so captivated, and the slower moments still had me leaning in, knowing in the back of my mind that these characters did not have any time to waste. Good Time had me right from the start, and it kept me in my seat until the final credits rolled off the screen.

The Safdie brothers have come so far in such a short period of time. Since their last feature, their styles of both writing and directing have improved sizably, becoming better storytellers and artists as consequence. There is a real, proper narrative here with fully realized characters who inhabit it. Not only is the plot full of thrilling developments, but it includes plot twists and revelations that had the audience laughing and gasping just moments apart. This is not simply an exercise in auteurship, a pretty package with nothing inside. Every element functions to help tell the story and evoke emotion. The close-ups and bright colors look fantastic, but they also convey the intensity and intimacy of the situation. Harsh neon and fluorescent lights really show the grime and sweat on these characters, and we can feel how exhausted they must be. The perfect, perfect soundtrack makes it all feel like a horrible video game, the characters just trying to complete the mission before the bad guys get 'em. Great visual and sonic elements are always appreciated, but in this case, they really bring vitality to the film. It may be dark, but there's a beating heart at its center.

These characters are largely vile, but despite their roughness, I couldn't help but wonder how they'd get out of their predicament. Films with unlikable protagonists are tricky for a lot of viewers, myself included. For me to care about such a horrible man, I need to either be completely engulfed by the plot or to be drawn in by his motivations. In Good Time, I can do both. Connie is a bad man, no way around it, who uses and abuses nearly everyone he meets, his own brother included. But when his brother is in trouble, he's gonna do whatever it takes to get him out, nothing more and nothing less. He may not act out of malice, but he does not care about who gets hurt in that process. He doesn't know how to love, but to see this man so fully committed to his brother is deeply compelling and fascinating. When Connie finds himself in danger, it's not that I'm worried for him, but I'm just so damn curious how the hell he's gonna get out of it. I couldn't take my eyes of the screen.

With everything else so intricately balanced, the phenomenal performances are what truly hold this together. Robert Pattinson is a revelation, truly sinking into Connie's skin and becoming this desperate man. There's no "big scene," there's no melodramatic monologue that proves his talents, and there doesn't need to be. Pattinson kills it with the expressions on his face and the way he grinds his teeth between sentences, giving what very well might be the best lead performance of the year. Benny Safdie is similarly excellent as Nick, playing a person rather than symptoms of a disability. Taliah Lennice Webster, Buddy Duress, Barkhad Abdi, and Jennifer Jason Leigh give strong supporting performances, even if a few of the scenes with them aren't necessary to telling Connie's story. Regardless of the quality of direction and writing, nothing can make or break a film faster than performances. All of these actors commit to their roles in such a remarkable way that it creates a strong sense of authenticity that remains through every twist and turn.

Good Time won't go over well with a lot of people, but it's not as abrasive as it may seem to be. There are some very valid critiques to be made of the portrayal of women (and girls) here. Yes, most every character is unlikable, but the female characters are specifically needy and submissive in a way that is miles away from being empowering. It's perfectly reasonable for viewers to be put-off by these portrayals, but personally, my response to a film isn't tied to how progressive it is if it still manages to captivate me. There's some valuable commentary here on the cyclical nature of criminality and addiction, and how running from your problems isn't always the right option, even if you're capable of getting off clean. Actions have consequences, and accountability is a must. The brilliant final sequence solidifies these themes, and pushes the film into a place of optimism and recovery, rather than keeping it in the darkness. You might not have a good time watching this (comedy is my greatest passion), but it will likely have you engaged throughout and leave you with a lot on your mind. That's always what I want from a movie, and that's exactly what I got here. I could definitely watch this again.

Rating: 88/100

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