Trying to convince yourself that you are in a movie theater during Good Time is excruciatingly hard. Not because of the filmmaking style that is soon to be trademarked by the brothers who directed the film, Benny and Josh Safdie, but because of the performances by early 2000’s teen heartthrob Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame, Benny Safdie director-actor who plays Pattinson’s mentally handicapped brother, and Buddy Duress, a former Riker’s Island prisoner turned actor.
Good Time is advertised as a heist film to serve Hollywood’s summer audience of big thrills, explosions, and fast cutting techniques that serve to a crowd lacking of attention span. Instead, what we as the audience are shown is a portrait of dysfunction, instead of a run-of-the-mill heist film. Some have reacted to the film as emphasizing on a “portrait” of a character, which is a giant portion of what the film represents. The portrait of Pattinson is what the film is really about, specifically as a character study. Certain filmmakers and scholars are noted for saying that what happens before and after the film is more important than the film itself- this seems to be what’s most important in Good Time with the portrayal of the characters. And in hindsight, character development and conclusion is usually what screams from a good screenplay, in which Good Time nails.
The subtext of the film is that of a flawed justice system, portraying those behind bars as pieces of entertainment because of their misbehavior. In Nick’s case, the brother of Pattinson’s character Connie, is ignorant in situations due to what seems to be a mental handicap- the actor who plays Nick is one of the directors of Good Time alongside his brother, Josh. Why are Connie and Nick diving deep into illegal territory to achieve their dreams? The opening scene highlights Nick’s mental impairment, especially his confusion with reality. All he wants to have is a Good Time. After the heist, Connie releases all of his flaws to the world like a tell-all diary the audience shouldn’t be reading. The direction by the Safdies is unique to films released to most large-chain theaters, especially during summertime, because of the use of constant close-ups, and a storyline that’s linear, but doesn’t lead to much if you’re not invested in the characters. It’s impossible not to be invested. We don’t see what is going on around our protagonist for the most part physically, until there is zooming out occurring during a looming take, which is rare- due to close ups. From this close-up technique, the facial reaction tells all during these moments, since the context of the conflict should be inherent, as the film isn’t very complicated. As mentioned, the film is supposed to be a portrait of Pattinson’s character, and it is pretty much filmed in the technique of, for example: a painting portrait.
The reason to see it is for the beautiful directing and vision by Ben and Josh Safdie, which should now be a selling point for any film they touch, the acting by the whole cast, Pattinson, and especially some of the local New Yorkers, (such as bail-bondsman) that the Safdie’s had picked up. As for the Safdies, this is easy because of the nature in which their work derived from before Good Time, as their previous picture was Heaven Knows What, based on a woman’s memoir of a heroin addiction. In this 2014 film, the lead actress is actually the woman who wrote the memoir, so the film already strikes as realist no matter where you are coming from. Pattinson got in contact with the Safdies, and they agreed to use Hollywood fame to portray their lead character. Although this may have been a struggle for their creative process, the film still comes off as a realistic portrait of what mentally instable criminals may act like. What brings the film together to make its aesthetic so gorgeous is Oneohtrix Point Never’s score, which makes every moment more intense than the Safdie’s may have intended. Bass-heavy synth that keeps the pace going through scenes like the heist at the beginning are followed by tracks such as the Iggy Pop featured “The Pure and the Damned”, which use powerful piano to portray its message. Pop sings over the chords: “the damned always act from love..”, presumably, Pattinson is the “damned”. The film is truly a unique one, and I’m sure most people haven’t seen anything like it, due to its structure. Good Time’s aesthetic, script, score, and acting should make audiences giddy that we are blessed with the talent of the Safdies.