Don’t let the title fool you, Good Time is anything but that. A very dark theme that goes down twisted paths leaves you in awe and disgust but with a morbid sense of fulfilment that really makes the film tick and linger in the viewer’s mind for a couple days. The film is currently – and only – showing at HOME on screen four once a day, every day. Friday’s 18:30 showing was decently crowded for a HOME release with a dozen spectators attending the evening show.
Ben and Josh Safdie throw you into a tense moment right from the opening scene, a meeting at a psychologist’s office where we’re introduced to Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie), a mentally ill young man whose brother Connie (Robert Pattinson) is brought on screen shortly after, interrupting the meeting. Following the title card, everything is shown to the sound of a wonderful original score, composed primarily of synths, which is at least the equal of any soundtrack from this year. A wonderfully written bank robbery follows and sets the story up, as Nick is imprisoned after the cops chase the criminal duo down. Having escaped, Connie does everything in his power to free his brother.
Connie is a disgusting, ‘bullshitter supreme’ with no redeeming features except for his sheer determination, the only sympathetic trait he has. The appearance of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Barkhad Abdi (the “look at me. I am the captain now” dude) are fantastic interjections that ground the cast as very talented people indeed.
The story then progresses in a chaotic downward spiral that is composed of multiple elements in an alchemic combination that somehow works. Good Time is well written with interesting dialogue that is shot in a very confusing style. It’s fair to say that 90 percent of the film’s shots are close-ups of the actor’s faces with a very shallow depth of field, a stylistic choice that highlights the human nature of the story and its participants.
It’s also a testament to the thought and skill that went into the making of this film, props to the directors on that aspect. Slap the eternally building synths and the primarily red, black and white colour palette with interjections of various neon colours on top of that, and you’re in for a trippy visual experience with a gripping story to boot.
A very intense feeling of nostalgia underlines the film. The gritty visuals, the grinding synths and the camerawork can be compared to Nicolas Winding Refn’s ‘magnum opus‘ Drive, a film that, quite like Good Time, is a slice of the 1980s that is stuck in our current timeline, contributing to a dreamy, or nightmarish, feeling that only further emboldens the surreal chaos of the motion picture.
I must note, however, that two negative aspects of Good Time stood out to me. One, the camerawork, as creative as it may be, can be too disorientating at times, leading to literal headaches. Two, there is a scene where Robert Pattinson starts making out with a character who is 16 years-old. This scene is extremely uncomfortable to watch and made the whole audience groan in disgust. Personally, I think that could have been cut from the film and it would not have detracted from the experience at all.
Overall, the tense feature with a faint taste of horror will linger in the back of your mind, making you wonder and speculate on what could have happened differently, or what’s in store for the characters of the story. The fact that the Safdie brothers don’t hold back on violence, drug use and cruel language make the film feel raw and troublingly real, presenting us with an escape from reality that only goes and drags us into an even darker world.