This review is spoiler-free but there are basic plot details and some vague references to major plot points throughout the review. This is a review designed for those who have not seen the film yet but may provide entertainment and interesting discussion for those who have.
You may not have heard of Good Time, or if you have, it’s most likely that you haven’t seen it. The only reason I found out about it and have seen it twice in two weeks is because of high recommendations from two YouTube reviewers I follow: YourMovieSucks and ralphthemoviemaker. Because of their extreme praise of this film, I decided to go out and purchase the Blu-ray ASAP.
Then with extremely high anticipation, I watched it. And then I watched it again not long after. And I plan to watch it again soon. I’m just going to cut straight to the chase and say it outright: this film, directed by Josh and Benny Safdie and starring Robert Pattinson, is, without a doubt, one of the best films of 2017. I’m almost certain that the Academy didn’t even know it existed as if they did, I’m certain it would have been up for at least Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Score and Best Original Song.
The film follows Connie (portrayed by Robert Pattinson) as he attempts to break his mentally handicapped brother, Nick (portrayed by Benny Safdie), out of jail, after a bank heist of theirs has gone wrong. Now, this synopsis may not sound all that groundbreaking, but it is the specifics of the plot, the characterisation, the dialogue, the direction and the cinematography that truly make this film something special.
The entire film (apart from a few select shots) is filmed in tight close-ups with a handheld camera. This adds a sense of claustrophobia and intensity as Connie goes further and further to find out ways to break Nick out of jail. This style of filmmaking as well as the quick and natural dialogue and the pulse-pounding synth score by Onoehtrix Point Never cause the film to feel like an intense thrill ride all the way through, only letting up in a few carefully selected moments but even then, the tight handheld shots remain, still leaving a feeling of unease remaining. It feels almost erotic with the way it gets up close and personal to its characters as well as the audience, never letting either of them go. This feeling is also achieved through the neon lit cinematography, echoing the look of such films as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The depiction of Queens through this look is dirty, grungy and just a little bit arresting, reflecting the not-so-sympathetic characters that inhabit the plot. I have never been to Queens and so I do not know if this is actually what the area is like, but it nevertheless adds to the intense, grimy aspect of the film, reflecting the grimy and intense details of the plot.
You really need to have your attention on the film all the way through as any distractions will cause you to miss an important detail than may cause you to feel unsatisfied at the end. Many may see this as a problem with the film, but in my opinion, this elevates it even higher. It doesn’t treat the audience like idiots: instead it stays committed to its naturalistic characterisation and dialogue in which important plot points may be revealed in one quickly spoken line of dialogue just as it may happen in real life.
This is the most important aspect to the film in my opinion: how visceral it feels. Every character feels real: Connie is a near-sociopath yet has an overriding love for his brother; Nick is mentally-handicapped, and is manipulated by everyone around him for their own ends; Ray is a wild, untrustworthy criminal who always seems to make the wrong choices. All of them feel real, and their dialogue reflects this. Furthermore, all the actors do a brilliant job at portraying them. Robert Pattinson is incredible. He seemed to utterly lose himself in this role, becoming this devious freight train of a character who is both sympathetic and dislikable. He pulls the plot along by its ear and only lets go when he has to let go. Without this powerhouse performance, the central question of ‘Do the right intentions make up for one’s actions?’ would not be as ambiguous as it is. The film leaves this question up to the viewer to decide, presenting evidence, but not giving the answer and it does this masterfully, especially with the powerful final scenes, during which Iggy Pop and Onoehtrix Point Never’s powerful and affecting original song for the film ‘The Pure and the Damned’ plays over.
Equally as incredible is Benny Safdie as Connie’s mentally handicapped brother Nick who adds so much to the emotional aspect of the film. His portrayal of Nick is sympathetic and heartbreaking. With the wrong actor, Nick could become annoying or unsympathetic, but Safdie’s faultless portrayal always keeps the audience empathising with his plight. I have personal experience with a mentally handicapped person and the portrayal of the disability is perfect. One could argue that it is the personal nature I have to the disability that caused me to be so attached to this character, but I think this feeling may be universal to all who have watched the film.
Whilst I have been going on about the intense and grimy aspects of the film, it also has quite a bit of humour too. This is never more apparent than in the character of Ray who seems to embody the wild, uncaring attitude that only New York youths can embody and Buddy Duress portrays him perfectly. His monologue in the middle of the film about he came to be in the situation he is in is one of the highlights, being a service to both plot and character as well as extremely entertaining in its own right.
As you may be able to ascertain from the 800 words above, I adore this film. It’s thrilling, affecting, gripping, dramatic and sometimes humorous and the direction, score, script, performances and cinematography are all fantastic, working together to create this world of unease and moral ambiguity that is so interesting to dissect and analyse. The film asks many questions about the nature of these characters, whether what they’re doing is right or wrong, or whether anything has any point to it at all. It is this ambiguity and the messages that come from it that make this film near perfect. The line from ‘The Pure and the Damned’ states:
“The Pure always act from love. The Damned always act from love.”
Yet is acting from love enough for potentially wrong actions to be excused?
I have my view. Why don’t you watch Good Time and find yours?
Charley – 18/03/18
CONNIE: “[to Nick] Do you think I could have done that without you standing next to me, being strong? Are you feeling this? Are you feeling as good as I’m feeling right now?”
NICK: “You don’t love me, OK!? He loves me! Connie loves me!
RAY: “And literally the next I remember is: I’m fucking, I’m running down some random street and I just see a fucking cab and I hail it and I just get in”
PETER: “[to Nick] This place where we are now, it can be a lot of fun if you let it. You’re gonna have a good time.”
THERAPY CLASS TEACHER: “Cross the room if you have a friend”