The latest psycho-drama to hit the market, Good Time, shows that Robert Pattison has more in his arsenal than just pale makeup and make-out sessions with Kristen Stewart; instead, he delivers a poignant, and often terrifying, portrayal of a manipulative criminal that ropes his brother into dire circumstances. The film’s efforts are also aided by the spectacular eye of the Safdie Brothers– also known for the 2015 film Heaven Knows What, that, frankly, went under-appreciated.
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattison) is a career criminal with a heart of gold– or so he would have us believe. The saying “actions speak louder than words” comes to mind when Nikas repeatedly pulls his mentally-challenged brother Nick (Benny Safdie) into the crosshairs of the law. When the NYPD catches up to the brothers after a bank heist gone wrong, Nick foots the bill and Connie escapes. Immediately, Connie attempts to get the funds together for bail, but, even after the heist, he’s still quite a bit short– in the neighborhood of nine grand.
After calling on his “love interest,” Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman that he is clearly manipulating for bank roll, Connie exhausts all of his “honest” options and breaks his brother out of the hospital. Just when we think that he’s scot-free, a mix-up of epic proportions forces him to find another way of securing bail– a much more harrowing and problematic way.
The performances in this film are nothing short of amazing. The aforementioned Pattinson forces you to love him and hate him at the same time, keeping you on the edge of your seat while he tries to find anyway possible to free his brother. What might be even more amazing is the performance from Benny Safdie in the titular role of Connie’s mentally-challened brother, Nick. Safdie, who does not have a disability, delivers a highly believable and moving performance of someone that struggles with not only speech, but interaction with other people. In this case, empathy is an understatement; we really feel that Nick loves his brother and wants to do anything to “help him.” While these are two performances that stand out, the supporting cast is equally incredible. Crystal, a teenager who gets drug along for the ride in the latter half of the film, is played by Taliah Webster, a newcomer with Good Time as her only credit. Buddy Duress, a former inmate at Riker’s Island, also makes a splash.
Behind every great actor is a great director and the Safdie Brothers clearly have a knack for filmmaking. The pace of the film, while somewhat slow in the second act, is spot-on otherwise. It’s a relentless adrenaline rush that leaves you wanting more after an extremely emotional and difficult third act. Their use of colors is reminiscent of a Refn film, playing with the absence of color just as much as painting something in reds or blues to draw focus, or throw you off the trail– not to mention a stellar soundtrack filled with tracks that will be playing on my Spotify account for weeks to come.
Good Time is a stunning approach to an old story: an older brother taking advantage of the naivety of his younger companion. However, this film flips the typical outcomes on their head and, instead, challenges the audience to ask the question; what matters more? Family or self-autonomy?
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