It’s a Good Time for Pattinson’s Art House Resurgence
For nearly a decade, Robert Pattinson has made himself a household name, albeit stemming from the critically-panned The Twilight Saga. Like co-star Kristen Stewart, Pattinson has veered away from the franchise that put him on the map and transformed into an unexpected indie star. While he’s dabbled in the indie scene with Cosmopolis, Map to the Stars and this year’s The Lost City of Z, it’s his latest film Good Time where he shines like never before.
Pattinson stars as Constantine Nikas, a petty criminal with his sights on robbing $65,000 from a New York bank. His partner-in-crime is his mentally handicapped younger brother Nick (Ben Safdie). When we’re first introduced to the Nikas brothers, Nick is in the middle of psychiatric session. It’s quite an uncomfortable experience and Connie, frustrated by the course of discussion, removes his brother and preps for the robbery.
Connie’s the one orchestrating the entire criminal scheme. However, it’s Nick who ultimately pay the price when he’s apprehended after the incident by the cops. With Nick behind bars, Connie’s forced to think on his feet and come up with the bail money fast. Short $10,000, he’s hellbent on finding alternative methods to secure his brother’s release. Technicalities end up standing in his way and he decides to take matters into his own hands. Connie’s not exactly the best influence on his brother and is more consumed with the act of freeing him than his actual welfare.
While Good Time opens as a gritty tale of blatant brotherhood, the journey centers more on Connie once Nick is in custody. So, for the majority of the film we explore this seedy narrative through the eyes of Pattinson. After some misadventures, a 16-year-old girl (Taliah Webster) and beaten criminal Ray (Buddy Duress) enter the fold, assisting Connie with his rescue attempt.
Directors Ben and Josh Safdie certainly know their way around a narrative of brotherhood and Good Time reaps the rewards. Pattinson’s Connie toys around his fair share of moral ambiguity. While he’s our protagonist, he’s been fueled by so many bad decisions. Yet, we constantly have to ponder whether or not to root for him as an anti-hero or just watch events unfold. This is the level of intense complexity we’ve been craving from Pattinson for years. In fact, Good Time might even showcase Pattinson’s best performance to date.
Alongside a stellar script by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, Good Time prides itself on a being a beautifully-looking film. Imagine something so seedy and grimy emerging as a thing of beauty. But that’s just Sean Price Williams’ raw cinematography and use of saturation working seamlessly. With the backdrop of their hometown New York City, the Safdie brothers transport audiences to gripping sequences in New York, including an abandoned amusement park or vertigo-inducing high-rise. Composer Oneohtrix Point Never (Daniel Lopatin) complements the energy with a tense electric score.
Good Time brings in supporting players like Barkhad Abdi (Captain Phillips) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), but there’s very little material given to these two actors. Both characters serve more towards the plot than any distinctive characterizations in the fast-paced 99-minute run time. Abdi’s security guard is a unfortunate obstacle as the film moves towards the climax. Leigh’s, however, is even smaller, acting as Connie’s financial security net for a single scene.
As a sleekly-made crime drama, Good Time lives up to its name as a late summer winner for indie moviegoers. That doesn’t mean it’s an easy watch by any means, moreso a worthwhile one. And while the likes of Werner Herzog and David Cronenberg paved the way for a richer Pattinson performance, the Safdie brothers topped it all off with a home run.