The Student
Cult Column: Good Time

Have you ever seen a film that’s an incredibly fun watch but makes you want to pause to take in just how disgusting its contents are? If that sounds appealing, it’s time for you to watch Good Time.  

Josh and Benny Safdie have had their big-break recently with Uncut Gems, an amazing film that got a great deal of well-deserved attention last year, even if it was utterly snubbed by the Oscars. After seeing it 3 times since its release, I decided to watch their previous film, Good Time

Good Time is the type of film that makes you want to take a shower and a nap once you’re finished. The plot revolves around Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson), a young New Yorker who has recently gotten out of prison on parole (his “good time”) and is looking after his developmentally disabled brother, Nick (played by co-director Benny Safdie). Connie convinces Nick to rob a bank with him, but as Nick gets caught and ends up in prison, Connie must go on a chaotic journey to either get the money to get him out or help him escape. 

Robert Pattinson has gotten plenty of recent recognition for his performance in The Lighthouse, but when Good Time came out the idea of Pattinson putting out a nuanced, intricate character performance seemed comical. While The Lighthouse has proven that Pattinson is much more than Edward Cullen, Good Time is arguably an even better performance from him: a perfect balancing act showing the care for his brother whilst not shying away from his manipulation and abuse of him. The film plays like a gritty, gross view into the underbelly of our personas.

The film moves at breakneck speed for the entirety of its runtime, aided by a fantastic score by Daniel Lopatin (aka electronic musician Oneohtrix Point Never). Between the in-your-face, intense closeup cinematography, throbbing, synthesised score, and the plot never slowing down, the film is almost too exhilarating to realise how horribly depressing and realistic the whole affair is. Only in brief moments do you remember that the whole film is basically a stylised nightmare. 

These brief realisations aid the film immensely, as it effectively handles the reality of how we perceive criminality, addiction, mental illness and even race in America. One can argue it covers too much ground, but I think every point they make is justified in this fever dream of a film.

Uncut Gems is undoubtedly the better film. It is more developed, its message more focused, yet it sacrifices none of the brothers’ visceral and jaw-dropping style. But I might just enjoy Good Time more. I’ve found it swarming my thoughts days later and there are moments that I feel I could talk about for hours.

This was the Safdie’s first big-budget release and it plays like a debut, but in the best way possible. It has that unbridled, fantastic vision that Tarantino had with Reservoir Dogs and the eerie darkness of Ari Aster’s Hereditary. It’s certainly flawed, but it feels so guerilla, a real trip into the parts of society we stereotype or ignore.

Good Time may be depressing, but it’s a depressingly good time. It’s the type of film that never loses your attention and that you won’t be able to shake for days. Enjoy it as a double feature on Netflix alongside the excellent Uncut Gems now. And try not to break down crying at the ending. 

Image: Martin Kraft via Wikipedia