Good Time is a visceral, gritty thriller that moves you forward with its hypnotic, award-winning soundtrack and vivid shots with neon lighting that demands your attention, even if the brutality makes you look away. In spite of the violence, at its core Good Time is a triumph of humanistic storytelling, a Safdie staple, all aspects of the film are tinged with desperation and the love that drives that desperation.
The first scene introduces us to Nick, his therapy session is a painful, revealing moment in which his mental handicaps are shown to the audience layer after layer. It almost seems as if Nick knows that his definiencies are being put on display to a larger audience. Nick, played by co-director Ben Safdie, shows such raw frustration at his own inability to express himself and understand the world around him. He is constantly pushed into situations beyond his comprehension and control, yet while the pace of events surrounding him speed up, he is left slogging through the mud to catch up.
In stark contrast to Nick is his older brother and protector, Constantine or Connie played by a stellar Robert Pattinson. From the very first time Connie storms into Nick’s painfully intimate therapy session his energy is palpable and chaotic. Pattinson is at his absolute career best as the intense, desperate man who is constantly trying to outrun his own mistakes and save the only person he truly cares about. He is unrecognizable with greasy skin and bleached hair, pockmarks, and a manic light in his eyes throughout the film. This dramatic transformation is not just skin deep, Connie’s reedy voice is as piercing as his appearance. Pattinson is a force of nature as he rushes into situation after situation in order to help his brother, he maniacally jumps from plans as they fall through, he acts on impulse with every move, his voracious love for his brother is ultimately his undoing.
The majority of the film takes place in one night, a feat that makes for an adrenalized chaotic night as Connie combs through the seedy underbelly of Queens for a chance to save his brother. That night is lit up with neon, the color of late night and all that accompanies it. Cinematographer Sean Prince Williams lights up Pattinson with red, pink, black light and static white light to create a hypnotic thrill for the eye, while constantly reminding everyone that this is the unnatural light made for the darkest places, with even darker purposes. The lurid, abandoned amusement park sells this seediness best, and also is a visualization of the chaos in Connie’s head and the emotions that drive him further into the grave he is digging for himself.
The final shot of Connie is haunting; he sits in the back of a police car staring forward into nothingness. Throughout out his fevered night, this was never the plan. He looks out, unseeing as the camera closes in tight. Pattinson is finally still, numb from all the actions that lead him here. Without his manic energy and simmering rage, Connie is smaller and seems to sink into the seat in relief that there is nowhere to go, the end caught up with him. In contrast again, Nick is shown in a program for handicapped individuals, finally in a situation where he can choose his speed and direction. The Safdie brothers never shied away from realism in this film, and you leave knowing this is how it should end. This is a film that stays with you on the drive home the raw, totally human story of love without knowing how to love. That love can be as destructive and suffocating as hate.
If Good Time is playing in a theatre near you, go see it, now.