Lapses in logic doom Good Time
Critics and fans alike have been heaping praise upon Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time since its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. It’s easy to see why, as this is a “Hey, look at me!” production, one suffused with style and meant to signal there are brave new visionaries behind the camera. Actually, the film has style to spare – far too much for my taste – as this becomes a spectacle of distractions meant to draw our attention away from the faulty script that’s riddled with far too many lapses in logic to keep track of. Only the work of Robert Pattison, doing his best to distance himself from his vampire past, keeps us engaged throughout.
The first scene is an effective hook that promises much more than is ultimately delivered. Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) is being asked a series of simple questions to help a psychiatrist (Peter Verby) evaluate his mental capabilities. The extreme close-ups used here are ironic, as there’s really no way we can penetrate what this poor young man is thinking or feeling. The intensity and single tear Safdie is able to produce during these moments generates ample sympathy for the character from the start.
His brother Connie (Pattinson) interrupts the interview, abruptly taking him from the office, telling him he needs his help for a very important job. This would happen to be a hair-brained bank robbery that seems to go off without a hitch. However, when Nick panics he’s taken into custody, which sends Connie on an all-night odyssey to raise $10,000 to bail his brother out before he gets hurt or worse among the prison population.
The first 45 minutes of the film works as the Safdies’ intense approach mirrors the manic nature of Connie’s plight. Perhaps the movie’s best moment occurs at the office of the bail bondsman, where he tries to get his unstable girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to charge the $10,000 to her mother’s credit card. When it’s denied, the panic among all rapidly escalates, and there’s a feeling of genuine tension the movie never duplicates.
From there the series of circumstances Connie is forced to endure becomes much too much to swallow. A ridiculous case of mistaken identity, a woman who’s far too trusting in letting him into her home, and a convenient stash of stolen loot that will put everything right – if only it can be found – defy all sense of logic. Any credibility the Safdies have created with the audience goes out the window once the descent down this nonsensical narrative rabbit hole is underway.
Obviously never having heard of a tripod, the film is composed of one jittery handheld shot after another, its characters framed as if they were 10 pounds of potatoes stuffed into a five-pound sack while a pulsing techno soundtrack blares throughout, meant to mirror the characters’ anxiety. As I said, this is initially an effective approach, but its repetition ends up becoming something to endure rather than enjoy. It’s an exhausting film, but not in a good way.
To be sure, Pattison is fun to watch as the amoral Connie, a shiftless young man always on the make, ready to use anyone who crosses his path. There’s little if anything sympathetic about him and the actor embraces this, fully immersed in the character’s unpredictable, opportunistic nature. It is obvious Pattison is having a good time stretching himself here, and he’s fun to watch; I just wish that in the end I hadn’t felt as if I’d been bludgeoned by Good Time.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.