HIDDEN ON STREAMING: 'Good Time'
I recently saw a film starring Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame on Amazon Prime called Good Time where it’s currently streaming for free. Putting Pattinson’s other acting work that I’ve seen aside and tucking away puns about how this film gave me a good time (shoot, I still did it!), I have to say it was great! Outside of Twilight, I have admittedly not seen much starring or featuring Pattinson, but I have to say that he did some of the best acting I’ve seen this past year (more on that later). I’m also not familiar with the directors Josh and Benny Safdie (they’re brothers!), but I like their style and am certainly excited to see what else they have going on in the past and future as this is already their third or fifth film together (little hard to tell what are features or shorts). Before diving in more, I’m sure you’re asking, “Well, what the heck is Good Time about?” Let’s look at the trailer first:
So, now that you’ve seen the trailer, you know more about this movie than I did before I sat down to watch at home on Amazon Prime. If you didn’t exactly get what the trailer was telling you, then the gist is that Pattinson’s character Connie (short for Constantine) and his mentally handicapped brother Nick (played extremely well by the co-director and co-editor of the film, Benny Safdie) rob a bank. After the cops have been tracking the pair down, they are only able to arrest Nick. It’s up to Connie to get more money to bail his brother out of jail. If you watch this movie, you will see early on why the cash they just successfully stole in the trailer is too dirty to process.
That’s it in a very, very basic nutshell. I honestly don’t want to tell you much more because once the opening credits kick in -- which in all honesty are actually about twenty minutes into the film -- you’re left having no clue where this movie will take you, and that’s part of the fun. The reason you have no idea what’s going to happen is that Connie is a despicable character whose only saving grace is that he loves his brother, which plays into one of his two biggest downfalls -- the first being his willingness to do anything to give his brother a better life. Feeling that any amount of time in prison will see the end of the slow-witted Nick is what keeps Connie going through his adventure of terrible decision-making. You see Connie isn’t just bad at making decisions, since he’s a criminal and that lifestyle goes against what your mama told you. Connie’s other main downfall is that he thinks he’s smarter than he is, which takes any of the possible high IQ he could have and flushes it down a drain, leaving behind the stink of stupidity… and that’s what makes Connie such an interesting character. He is hall of famer that excels at poor decision-making.
Connie traverses the landscape of New York City, with Queens being the more specific backdrop to his adventure and life. We never learn every minute detail of his background, like you would in a lesser film, but we learn enough to know that he doesn’t need to commit crimes for a living. He’s by no means a character with a rich family backing him, but he could’ve easily gone places had he applied himself instead of always looking for the easy way out. Even his version of the easy way out actually makes everything harder for himself, and the fact he can’t see that makes him a smart guy who does radically stupid things. Pattinson is flawless as this character. The British actor feels like people I actually knew growing up a train ride away from where this film takes place and is completely different from every role I’ve ever seen him do. In fact, I forgot it was even Robert Pattinson I was watching on screen more often than not. His performance never demands sympathy or understanding from the audience for his character. He just shows you what this man is all about and defies you to cheer for him.
The choices that Connie makes as a character are so wildly stupid at times that you may laugh, because this film plays like a comedy. What’s different about his choices rather than those of another movie that most would call a straight comedy, like an Adam Sandler or Melissa McCarthy movie, is that you can tell why he’d make these choices, but that doesn’t mean they’re good choices. The best way to describe it is, when you look at Larry David in “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and anything else going all the way back to “The Three Stooges”, they all make horrible decisions and more often than not have to suffer the consequences. While their actions may still end in a dark result -- or, in the “The Three Stooges” case, usually some light injuries they can walk off (aside from that time they were all eaten by a lion) -- it’s usually never that bad for the character, but instead the people around them are effected the most. In Good Time, everyone involved is regularly worse off for having been in contact with Connie… including Connie himself. Where comedies might have a wife character or a boss shaking their head at our whacky hero, Good Time wants you to linger on what this guy just did and sit with him as every character he interacts with is eaten by a lion (so to speak). Connie’s a dark cloud or vortex that harms everyone in his wake as he uses people and then digs himself into worse situations. Every time you think this movie will go one way, it’ll do something else, so all you can do is just sit back and be along for the ride.
My main question about Good Time, however, is why did Pattinson’s performance and this spectacular little film fly so far under the radar last year? Could it be that it was victim of its low budget? Could this explain why it wasn’t a widely released film? Being distributed this year by A24, the same company that got the rights to Good Time, is another indie that plucked out of the festival circuit. This one was entered into Sundance with a whopping $10 million budget from a first-time feature filmmaker named Ari Aster and starring Academy Award nominee Toni Collette called Hereditary. At Sundance, it got a lot of buzz for being terrifying, and upon release it was hailed as this generation's The Exorcist, or even scarier depending on who you spoke to. Living in Los Angeles, it’s been hard not to hear film people gush over Hereditary. Then horror fans and the regular viewing audiences saw it. After the credits roll, CinemaScore asks these people what they all thought and bam! It gets a lowly D+. $10 million budget and they built a house specifically for this movie. This was made by people with money to burn.
Good Time had such a low budget that I can’t even find what it was other than the fact that Pattinson paid for his own temporary NYC apartment in a basement and ate nothing but cans of tuna (although that may have been a character choice because actors). What I’m getting at here is, why not give something that’s good with no budget behind it, put more money into showing it in more theaters, and then reap all the profits? Why something like this hasn’t been recognized more is astounding to me.
Having seen Good Time now, I can say that, along with The Florida Project, it was one of the best dramas of the past year along with some of the best performances… and that includes the performances from both films' more well-known actors and actors never seen before. This brings me to the next thing I liked about Good Time, which is that the Safdie Brothers put regular people in their movie. One of the main characters who shows up eventually is played by a guy named Buddy Duress, who appeared in the Safdies' previous film Heaven Knows What. Duress plays a low-level drug dealer in Heaven Knows What and guess what? He was arrested for drug dealing after the film’s release, so in Good Time (a movie about criminals) you can expect that he’s a criminal.
There are even multiple scenes with a bail bondsman at his office, and the guy who Connie meets with there is the real life bail bondsman at that office. He owns and operates the business with his wife, who you can bet also appears in the film. They even had enough of a budget to shut down part of a mall location and kick regular people out over the course of the small window of filming they could get and refused. They wanted real people and their real reactions to what’s going on as they run through everywhere with a handheld camera, which gives Good Time more of a realistic edge that often feels surreal despite its actual realism.
Lastly, I want to talk about the score. It was actually done as the eighth studio album by an avant-garde artist and musician named Dainel Lopatin, who goes by the moniker Oneohtrix Point Never. I’ve never heard of him before and there’s something about a lot of his soundtrack that sounds like something you have heard before, possibly in the '80s, but from a different dimension or alternate history. I guess the best description would be if John Carpenter never made movies and his career was instead composing music for the '80s show “Miami Vice” and the network wasn’t allowed to give him notes. Here’s a couple for ya:
In all honesty, I don’t even think I’ve written enough about this movie. Good Time is seriously one of the best films I’ve seen in 2018, even though it was released in 2017. People can talk all they want about Hereditary, good and bad opinions according to that CinemaScore, but this has been by far the most well done, fun to watch, and exciting movie I’ve seen this year. My only regret is that I didn’t get to see it on the big screen, but I’m happy that Amazon Prime can bring it to so many more people now. It’s actually got me excited to see more of what Robert Pattinson can do. Lucky for me it just so happens that he’s wildly different than Connie in his latest movie that looks nothing like Good Time called Damsel, which came out a month ago. This one is another indie that hasn’t been easy to find in theaters, unfortunately. Will somebody give this guy’s non-Twilight movies a wider chance?!
(Don’t worry, I have next to no idea what this is about too but I’m still seeing it!)
(Image via A24)
- Kevin Donaldson, YH Contributing Writer