No Good Times in Good Time
Hard-Edged Crime Film Opens in Milwaukee
At first glance, Nick could be mistaken for deeply drugged or depressed as he mumbles inarticulate answers to a therapist’s questions. Soon enough, it’s clear that he’s developmentally disabled as well as downcast by the prospect of being institutionalized. Suddenly, his brash brother Connie barges into the session and “rescues” him, spiriting him out as the hapless therapist calls security. Is it because Connie wants an accomplice for the bank robbery that occupies the next scene of Good Time, the sardonically–named film by directors Josh and Benny Safdie?Or because he cares about his brother?
Maybe it’s a little of the latter and a lot of the former. Connie (Robert Pattinson) plans a robbery backed, like his rescue of Nick, with the promise of violence. He’s brass-knuckle tough and con-man clever, with a knack for improvisation, but he’s neither smart nor strong enough to escape the relentless machinery of contemporary life—he can’t talk his way around cancelled credit cards or past the tough Jewish bondsman who won’t be moved.
The robbery is botched. Connie doesn’t expect the pink exploding dye in the moneybag the teller hands him. A foot chase ensues through the streets of New York. Nick runs through a glass door and gets caught. Connie stays on the run. Even with his face on every newscast, he remains determined despite all obstacles to rescue his brother—this time from a hospital bed under police guard.
Benny Safdie plays Nick but his sullen yet sympathetic character soon gets lost in the story in more ways than one. Good Time belongs to Pattinson, a universe away from Harry Potter and Twilight as a predatory outlaw whose singular good trait may be devotion to his brother. Connie is a grifter for who whom lying is as easy as breathing, a spinner of convincing stories on the fly. During his night on the run he takes advantage of the people he encounters through their kindness, inattention or naiveté.
Good Time is sometimes hard to watch in its outbursts of unnecessary cruelty; it makes demands on the viewer who, especially in early scenes, is expected to connect the visual dots and fill in the lacunae in the dialogue. During his night on the run, and the morning after, Connie is a character in a postmodern film noir hiding in a world of grit and shadows, lit by lurid red neon and suffused with bad drugs. The amusement park broken into by Connie and another criminal who becomes his uncomfortable confederate is a funhouse of horror.
In the brilliant climactic scene, Connie is a rat in an urban maze, seen from above in a god’s eye perspective on the rapidly unfolding denouement. Good Time is uncompromising in its bleak vision of losers and lost souls at the bottom of society.