BFI London Film Festival: Good Time

Good Time
Good Time
Directed by Josh Safdie and Benny Safdie
Starring Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Buddy Duress and Barkhad Abdi
Screening at LFF October 5th, 8th, 2017
Watch on iTunes US

by Joanna Orland

Robert Pattinson comes of age as an actor in Benny and Josh Safdie’s stylishly raw thriller Good Time.

Connie Nikas (Pattinson) is always looking out for his brother Nick (Safdie), mentally handicapped and currently under care after a violent altercation with his grandmother. Connie removes Nick from care, with good but ill-advised intentions. Wanting a better life for them both, Connie leads Nick into committing a bank robbery which results in Nick being arrested and Connie left on the run, trying to free his brother. There is a fine balance of morality – Connie has good intentions even when he is blatantly doing something wrong. His motives are commendable, his actions deplorable. How far he goes to save himself and his brother at the expense of others is upsetting to watch, as things go from bad to worse.

A distinct style differentiates Good Time from other modern day thrillers, as it sits more comfortably amongst films of 1970’s ‘New Hollywood’. Shooting actors primarily in close-up gives an intimate and almost claustrophobic feel, as well as creating an empathetic hook for the audience to grasp Connie’s internalized feelings. The shaky camera effect gives the film a raw, rushed edge, driving the action. The 80’s inspired synth pop score by Oneohtrix Point Never elevates the stylistic aspect of the film – imagine Drive with a dark and dirty realism, without the glossy sheen; everything is grainy, not shiny and neon. Even the sound is muffled, some dialogue difficult to hear, actors mumbling or drowned out by scenery. Somehow this doesn’t detract from the film’s quality, but actually enhances its gritty realism.

Shots are uncomfortably long, scenes can often overextend their welcome to jarring effect; one that actually attributes to the immersivelness of Good Time. Some characters are painfully irritating, garnering no audience sympathy, but again, they work remarkably well in this portrait that the Safdie brothers are painting of these New Yorkers on the fringes of society.

The film feels like it was meticulously planned to give the impression that it was made on a low budget, in a rushed state, free-wheeling in the moment. It wants to put the audience in the film, as a fly on the wall, living in the moment alongside Connie. Camera work, editing and performance suck the viewer into Connie’s world, watching his desperation unfold to violent and erratic levels.

The complete visual and aural package is not merely for show, but enhances the storytelling, brings an intimacy to the characters, heightens the tension and gives the film its bold pace. Good Time is anything but that for its characters, but as an audience member, it’s a thrilling ride.


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