Year: 2017
Director(s): Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Writer(s): Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Region of Origin: US

Aspet Ratio: 2.35:1
Rating: R
35mm, Color, 110 mins

Synopsis: A bank robber finds himself unable to evade those who are looking for him. (Source)

Benny and Josh Safdie’s Good Time is proof that the American Dream is broken. More than a mere crime drama, the film is a portrait about people who continually slip through the cracks. There isn’t a moment of sensationalism here, only a frank look at how crime is anything but glamorous. With its neon drenched visuals and heart-stopping pace, the film takes us on a journey in which there is no escape, not for the viewer, and not for the desperate characters just trying to stay alive. Adding to the Safdie’s no-nonsense approach, stars Robert Pattinson and Benny Safdie immerse us with unflinching realism. Good Time is haunting till its last frame, shining a light on things we try to, but can’t ignore.

Connie (Robert Pattinson) just wants enough dough to leave town with his brother Nick (Benny Safdie) and girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh). After a botched bank robbery, however, Connie’s dream begins to quickly slip away. Nick, mentally disabled, has been captured by the police, collateral damage caused by Connie’s desperation. Over a single sleepless night, Connie races to break his innocent brother out of custody, leading him down a dark path in which there may be no redemption.

The Safdie’s hard-nosed thriller resonates by showing crime and addiction as a damning lifestyle. Though crime usually defines genre as a means to an end, here, it’s all that Connie and crew have left. We continually wonder how Connie and his cohorts got to this point. What good intentions aligned with hope, but are now broken dreams amidst a locked-cycle of regret and torment? Focusing on Connie’s breakneck decisions, the Safdie’s paint a picture of someone who no longer has a place in this world. Connie’s choices unwittingly cut him off from those he loves or the the aspirations he once had.

Allowing form to follow function, the Safdie’s doc-style approach strands us with their characters, putting us right there as they try to survive moment to moment. Connie’s odyssey pits him against a myriad of characters, both pure and unsavory, and a highlight of the film comes after he takes shelter at a good samaritan’s home. The suburban life he finds within is not what we expect, featuring a teenage girl looking for her own way out. A dubious but relatable bond soon forms, cementing the Safdie’s grim but humane view of mundane misery. It’s here where the film locks into place, as the Safdie’s explore how in the end, each of us is looking for our own version of happiness.

The film’s diverse, immersive cast is all in and Robert Pattinson turns in a career best. Connie is unhinged and struggling, but Pattinson makes him feel relatable and sincere. Pattinson has never been more gripping, drawing us into his angst and making the story feel lived in. There’s a complexity to Pattinson’s actions, and a depth that arises from them. Opposite, Benny Safdie pulls double duty with Nick, directing and giving the film its oddball heart. Safdie is haunting as Nick, playing someone who feels pure and primal. Taliah Webster’s Crystal is a force to be reckoned with, a little fireball who simultaneously evokes promise and heartbreak. Webster is a true standout poised for big things. Lastly, the ensemble couldn’t be talked about without mentioning Buddy Duress’ Ray, a Connie stalwart pulled into the story. As with the Safdie’s previous film, Heaven Knows What, Duress commands each scene he’s in – he’s straight up hypnotic.

Despite how gritty and savage Good Time’s reality may be, there’s still an undeniable empathy for its lost characters. These aren’t generic film villains by any stretch, but weathered souls working to break free of their constraints. As each action brings these characters to an inevitable end, the story becomes a study in consequence. Every decision we make affects not only ourselves, but the people around us, and amidst each struggle, the Safdie’s find a sliver of grace beneath the poignancy. If there’s one thing that Good Time shows us, it’s that the Safdies are filmmakers with important stories to tell, and the conviction to do so.