Reel Time with Joel and Chase
Good Time was Unpredictable and a [Insert Obvious Pun Here]
Title: Good Time
Rating: R for Language Throughout, Violence, Drug Use, and Sexual Content
Run Time: 1 hr & 40 min
*** (out of ****)
Good Time is a deadpan comedy of errors about a man whose ambitions slightly outnumber his ability to think quickly on his feet. The screenplay by Ronald Bronstein and co-director Josh Safdie offers us an original protagonist sucked into a narrative of unpredictable twists and electric turns on the streets of New York City. There is an urgency to the situation in which Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) finds himself, but that doesn’t deter the screenwriters from finding an unexpected joy in the telling of this story of scams, betrayals, street-level dealings, and desperation. It’s all a bit weirder and funnier than one might anticipate.
Perhaps underlining that Connie is not the main character of his universe, the film opens, not on his face, but upon that of his brother’s. Nick (co-director Benny Safdie) is mentally and physically handicapped, but the pair robs banks wearing various disguises. One such robbery is the catalyst for the story of a crazy night on the town for Connie, as the two make it out of a bank with a rucksack full of money and the subsequent dye-pack that explodes in the event of a robbery. Nick ends up meeting a plate-glass door during the foot chase with the police, and Connie ends up on the run.
All of this plays out before the extended opening credits, set to a synth-heavy techno score by Oneohtrix Point Never (an experimental musician who has collaborated on film scores but, with this movie, is making a feature-length debut in that field) and elevated by fleet editing that rarely stops for the easily exhausted. What follows is nearly as energetic, too, as Connie weasels and convinces his way into unlikely situation after unlikely situation. He screws up majorly only once (before the climax has its way): In his attempt to break Nick out of custody in hospital, he breaks out the wrong man.
That man is named Ray (Buddy Duress), and his backstory (which I won’t reveal) is an extended and very funny joke told to a bemused Connie amid a desperate attempt to return Ray to his original situation. Connie holes up with an elderly woman and her 16-year-old granddaughter (played by Taliah Webster in an auspicious debut performance), and when the news broadcasts his robbery attempt, his improvised method of deterring the girl’s attention on the screen is curious, to say the least. It all leads to a climax involving a bottle of soda, a closed-down amusement park, and an ensuing chase that piles on one surprise after another.
Pattinson’s performance is exceptional at finding something empathetic in Connie’s journey. He’s not a good man, but his heart is, for a time, in the right place. He simply wants what is right for his brother. His method is inexcusable, particularly in the final moments wherein he makes a decisive moral choice, but Bronstein and the Safdies focus mainly on the rompish elements of this single-night adventure. Good Time, to make the obvious joke, is one, but there’s a connective emotional component here, too. That makes for a nice surprise.
(Review by Joel Copling)