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Good Time

I’d like to start with this, because it was my very first introduction to Good Time. I noticed pretty much immediately that every single shot in that trailer was an extreme close-up, and knew just as quickly that I would absolutely hate watching it. Imagine my shock to see that the film had been getting solid reviews and it was playing at my nearest arthouse.

So I gave the film a shot, only to find out that it was exactly what I had expected. And yet somehow better than I had expected. I’ll explain.

The premise starts out simple enough. Robert Pattinson plays our protagonist, inexplicably named Connie Nikas. He has a brother (Nick, played by co-director Benny Safdie) who has some kind of unspecified mental disorder/retardation. In any case, Connie thinks that Nick’s therapy is a bunch of horseshit and seeks to go with his brother to a nice isolated cabin someplace.

To make that happen, the two of them rob a bank. Like you do.

Predictably, the heist goes sideways and Nick is arrested while trying to escape through a plate glass door. By which I mean he literally crashes right through a plate glass door. Connie is short on bail money, especially since most of the bank heist take has been marked, and he’s quite justifiably afraid that his developmentally challenged brother could be killed while in jail. So he sets out to bail out his brother by any means necessary, and things keep spiraling out of control from there.

This is one of those weird plots that doesn’t really have much in the way of structure. We basically just follow Connie from one misadventure to the next and the movie ends when it ends. In the process, we’re treated to a hospital heist sequence, a treasure hunt in a closed-down amusement park, drug dealing, murder, mistaken identities, and an interracial romance arc with an underage girl. Oh, and White Castle.

The cherry on top of all this is our protagonist himself. On the one hand, we can clearly see that he’s not terribly good at thinking in the long term, but he’s clever enough to come up with short-term fixes for pretty much any scenario. He’s ruthless about his own survival, but he’s got so much love for his brother that Connie clearly has some measure of compassion. All of this makes Connie wildly unpredictable, and we’re always kept guessing as to what he’ll do and how his schemes will work out. Plus, he’s so well-intentioned and yet so immoral that we’re in for a good time whether he’s coming out ahead or being made to suffer.

Then we have the visuals. As I said before (and as you may have seen for yourself if you actually clicked to watch the trailer), at least two out of every three shots is an extreme close-up. There were some shots when I was literally counting the pores on an actor’s face, and that happened way more often than it should in any given runtime. It’s deeply unnerving, especially given how the camera has to constantly move to keep the faces in frame. Then again, that unnerving quality may very well have been the intention all along.

When I finally got used to all of the close-ups, I came to appreciate how the visuals are really quite remarkable throughout. I was especially fond of the lighting: I have to admit that I’m a sucker for the neon/blacklight/black velvet aesthetic of bright garish colors against a dark backdrop, and this movie is rich with it. Additionally, on those rare few occasions when the camera gets pulled back — and I’m talking “photographed from a helicopter” back — we’re treated to some extended driving shots and chase scenes that are spellbinding in a way I don’t think I’ve ever seen before.

Then we have the characters. Meeting these characters is half the fun, so I don’t want to spoil too much. Suffice to say that Robert Pattinson leans hard into his inherent “bad boy” appeal, with results that are appropriately solid. Taliah Webster makes a bold and intriguing debut. Ben Edelman is perfectly punchable as an alcoholic crybaby. Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh each appear for a hot minute, damned if I could tell you why.

Oh, and there’s also the synth-heavy ’80s-esque soundtrack, can’t forget that.

Put simply, there is so much anarchy crammed into this movie that there’s no way it should possibly work. But in the context of a crime thriller, it somehow does. I’ve seen crime thrillers with mercurial characters, bad things done for well-intentioned reasons, and the constant threat of something going wrong in some unexpected way. Yet the filmmakers go that extra bit further, with visuals, characters, actors, and a screenplay that all go an extra degree or two removed from sanity. And somehow, it all coalesces into a kind of fever dream — fascinating if not entirely pleasant, operating on its own rules, and ending just as suddenly as if we woke up in the middle of it.

Good Time is an oddity to weird to live and too rare to die. The film defiantly refuses to do anything in a safe and predictable way, which makes it repulsive and yet compelling at the same time. It shouldn’t work, yet it somehow totally does.

I definitely recommend seeing it, if only because it’s the kind of movie that needs to be experienced before it can be truly understood. I can guarantee that you’ll be shocked (or even angry) at some point, it takes a while to get used to, and it’s a safe bet that you won’t have a terribly pleasant time. But something so singular and fascinating as this demands to be seen all the same.

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