“Good Time” Movie Review

Can you imagine going through all the tribulations Robert Pattinson went through in this movie to look after your own brother? I’m still asking myself that question. This acclaimed independent drama thriller competed for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival. Although it was released stateside on August 11th, it didn’t receive an expanded run until the following week, and has only earned back just over $137,000. This is the fifth collaboration between brothers Josh and Ben Safdie, who previously directed the drama Heaven Knows What. It’s also reportedly their biggest production to date. Set in the urban streets of New York City, Good Time follows a petty bank robber named Constantine “Connie” Nikas, played by Robert Pattinson. After a robbery goes awry, his mentally handicapped brother Nick is placed in a harsh prison program on Ryker’s Island. He tries to break him out of there while avoiding the cops and learns the consequences of his reckless actions. This is my first movie from the Safdie brothers, so their style almost overwhelmed me. They have such a rough and authentic view of street-level New York that is so hard to find in modern or even classical cinema. I do feel that their way of making a story will definitely not appease everyone, especially because the trailer is so misleading. It tried to sell this movie as a straight-forward prison break movie, but what I got was a surprisingly mature film that takes a look at poverty, desperation, brotherhood, devotion, and- dare I say -the death of the American Dream. Robert Pattinson proves that he has come a long way since his days as a brooding, sparkling vampire in the Twilight franchise. Earlier this year, he gave an excellent supporting performance in The Lost City of Z, and he outdoes himself here. Despite his criminal disposition, he is able to invoke an immense amount of empathy for his actions. Connie is an extremely resourceful character and some the things he does puts you on the edge of your seat. It becomes apparent pretty early on that he s willing to do anything, including taking the fall for crimes, to keep his brother safe. Speaking of his brother, co-director Ben Safdie is nothing short of convincing as Nick. He completely loses himself in the role and I actually didn’t enjoy watching some of his scenes because they felt so real. Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, and frequent collaborator Buddy Duress all give typically excellent performances in their small but crucial roles. The real revelation, though, is the young Taliah Webster as a young girl in Queens who helps Connie on his journey. She may be small, but her confidence and energy make her a promising star for the future. You get the idea that she really shouldn’t be involved in this world, no matter how much she wants to be in it. And the movie just looks downright gorgeous at times. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams locks the audience into a neon-soaked night environment. Specifically, he highlights the color red, whether it be the color of a street sign, a hallway lamp, the color of characters’ clothes, etc. Some of the lighting just seems impossible, but he pulled it off and made an otherwise harsh atmosphere look appealing and beautiful. The musical score is an unusual one, and I mean that in the best way. Experimental musician Daniel Lopatin, AKA Oneohtrix Point Never, composes the picture primarily out of synthesizers and electropop instruments. In a way, this kind of gave it this aesthetic of an 80’s horror movie, in the vein of composers like Charles Bernstein or John Carpenter. Sometimes, when the music began, a strange warm feeling of anxiety and tension came over my body. Tying these two aspects together is the frantic editing by the writers themselves, Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein. Not only is their dialogue sharply written and at times exhausting, but it matches perfectly with each cut made to a scene. It’s still easy to tell what’s going on, but the fierce delivery of the lines and editing really make this a movie that never lets you catch your breath. So yeah, if you have any history of anxiety attacks or get stressed out easily, Good Time is not for you. I feel the need to make that clear for my readers, because it is not conventional. While there are some moments of laughs and smirks, the 100-minute plot takes several twists and turns that I didn’t expect to see and I’m glad about that. The Safdie brothers do not make easy movies, in fact, some people might find this movie to be too loud or unsatisfying. It often takes time to examine the ugly side of brotherhood, especially when one of them is mentally handicapped. It could be easy to label this as What’s Eating Gilbert GrapeĀ with criminals and violence, but that would be misleading. It is so much more, and thus demands to be seen. Although it’s maybe a little too frantic for most audiences, Good Time is an unexpectedly challenging drama with thematic prowess. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I can comfortably say that it is one of the best movies of 2017. Let this be the official moment when Robert Pattinson left behind all of his roles as a heartthrob and shows his true range as an actor.

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