Movie Review: 'Good Time'
Visual Flourish and a Couple Good Scenes Not Quite Enough for a 'Good Time'
Why don’t I love Good Time? So many of my critical colleagues adore the film and yet I can’t see the full appeal. I love the look of the film, a grimy, color saturated chase through the underbelly of small-time Brooklyn crime, but the story just leaves me cold. Scene after scene I keep waiting for the film to find another gear and kick into the movie that so many of my colleagues have raved about and it just never comes. What I am left with is a fine looking movie with a terrific score that relies far too heavily on a contrivance-filled plot to get from one scene to the next.
Good Time stars a properly de-glammed Robert Pattinson as Connie. Connie is the overly protective brother of Nick, a troubled and mentally handicapped young man who we meet as he is perhaps being committed to a mental facility, the film isn't clear on this. Connie rescues his brother from this meeting but his rescue is quickly revealed to have an ulterior motive. Connie has Nick join him in a low stakes bank robbery that unfolds with no sound, just a passing of notes.
This is one of several terrific sequences in Good Time but like so much of the film; it stands alone as a great piece of stage craft but not necessarily a great piece of film storytelling. Connie and Nick pull off the robbery but they’re upended when a dye pack stuffed in their loot bag goes off and foils their getaway. Covered in pink dust they have to improvise but that only leads to more disaster as they are pegged by the cops and paranoid Nick decides to make a run for it, leading to his capture.
The rest of the narrative stems from Connie’s attempt to obtain bail money. With most of his stolen money unusable thanks to the dye pack he needs $10,000 more to free Nick from Riker’s Island. Here, he turns to a friend named Corey and played by Jennifer Jason Leigh in a rather needless cameo. Corey is a space cadet who could care less about Connie’s brother, she wants Connie to whisk her away on a vacation she’s deluded herself into thinking that Connie could afford or even be interested in.
It’s a showy cameo for Leigh but her character is entirely superfluous to the plot of Good Time. Her appearance leads to the reveal of an important piece of information but beyond that, it’s a bit of a distraction and a detour in a story that relies heavily on detours to extend its run-time. The film plays like an exercise in building and releasing tension as Connie finds one sweaty, desperate plot after another in his attempt to rescue Nick.
There are three great sequences in Good Time. The bank robbery that I mentioned earlier is incredibly well-staged. Then, there is a character named Ray who is introduced to the story in a very unusual way that I won’t spoil here. Ray has a flashback talking about how he ended up where he is now with Connie that is an energetic and odd aside, one that plays very conveniently into Connie’s bail-seeking plot. And finally, there is a sequence set inside an empty amusement park that is tense and darkly humorous. It involves a terrific cameo from Oscar nominee Barkad Abdi.
These sequences are filled with terrific visual invention and proper twists and turns but they also rely heavily on chance and coincidence. Everything to do with the character of Ray is just too lucky. Connie meeting Ray as he does is funny but unbelievable. Ray happening to know where they can score money and drugs is a contrivance necessary to the movie but one that desperately stretches the credulity of a plot already heavy with the weight of convenient plotting.
In the end, while I admire the directorial invention of Bennie and Josh Safdie, I can’t get passed the way the plot cheats. I do believe that Good Time is a strong indication that the Safdie’s have a big career ahead of them; they are incredibly stylish directors who just need a stronger script to show what they can really do. They’ve got such a strong visual element to their work that it’s only a matter of time before they put the pieces together in full.
If you’re interested in seeing some visually inventive direction with a terrific score, then do see Good Time. If, however, you prefer your movies with a plot that doesn’t rely on convenient contrivance and you need more than visual flourish and a couple of really good scenes, then Good Time is not the movie for you