Good Time | Ben Safdie + Joshua Safdie | August 11, 2017
If the brotherly duo of Ben and Joshua Safdie proved that they were truly directors to watch with festival favorite Heaven Knows What, they make damn good on that promise with their exceptional new film Good Time.
It’s a dual break-out party for both the Safdie brothers as well as the star of Good Time – Robert Pattinson. His fame is well-known by now, but in the years following his time as a vampire, he’s gone on to make some really interesting career choices, favoring good hearty independent films over blockbusters. With Good Time, Pattinson has arguably put forth his best work to date, while also proving that the Safdies are among the most exciting young directors in the game.
The film is yet another New York excursion, this time a troubled night spent in seedy parts of the town. We begin humbly, as his mentally-challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie, proving he’s a man of dual talents) is engaged in an emotional court-appointed therapy session with a psychiatrist (Peter Verby). Just as the doc is able to get Nick to open up about his troubled family history, right on cue his brother Connie (Pattinson) comes storming in, not happy that the doc is doing his job at all.
Instead, Connie brings his brother alongside a bank robbery, not quite the best influence to a brother in need. The heist goes as well as it could at first, but of course, they’re in over their heads and after two cops spot the duo looking oddly suspicious on the streets, a tense chase on foot results in Nick’s arrest. He’s sent to Rikers Island, no place for anyone, let alone an innocent mentally disabled man who is in there as a result of his brother’s manipulation.
This is the interesting part of the script, which is written by Josh Safdie and their longtime writing partner Ronald Bronstein. You have a rooted interest in these characters, but it’s hard to see Connie as a morally good character. In fact, most of the characters that make up this world are far from innocent, cast in a shadow of grey, leaving it up to the audience to really sort out their feelings. Connie isn’t a perfect character, but he realizes his mistake in getting his brother sent to one of the most dangerous prisons in America and does everything in his power to right this wrong, sending him on an unforgettable adventure that we are lucky enough to experience as the audience.
There’s an intensity to the film captured expertly by cinematographer Sean Price Williams who shows off New York City with a colorful vibrancy that gives it a neon glow. He also lingers on characters’ faces with intense close-ups that showcase an emotional intensity, allowing each of the performances to shine with extra power. Not enough can be said about the power of Oneohtrix Point Never‘s incredible electronic-rock score which acts as a character itself, giving the film an electric pulse that only adds to the intensity of it all.
Along with Pattinson’s performance, there’s a lot of believability to the performance of Benny Safdie, who really sells being an emotionally scarred and mentally challenged brother. There’s also some scene-stealing stuff from both Buddy Duress (also from Heaven Knows What) as a criminal named Ray, and Taliah Webster as Crystal, a young teenaged girl who gets caught in the middle of all this madness. There’s also some small but valuable work from Jennifer Jason Leigh as Connie’s female friend with deep pockets, and Barkhad Abdi as a security guard at an amusement park who crossed paths with Connie and Ray.
It’s a small-time story that is elevated ten times its size thanks to the Safdies’ immaculate craft and the unforgettable turn by Robert Pattinson who carries it home all the way. With some stunning eye-candy cinematography and one of the best scores of the year from Oneohtrix Point Never, there’s a ton to love about Good Time, which ends up being a truly great time of immaculate cinematic pleasure, a tense and unforgettable ride from start to finish that I’m already itching to experience again.
Q&A With Robert Pattinson, Ben & Josh Safdie – Walter Reade Theater, Film Society of Lincoln Center 7/26/17