Good Time is more of an experience than a ‘movie’ in the traditional sense. It’s a hallucinogenic, aggressive piece of work which spirals out over the course of only a few hours – yanking us along not so much as an accomplice, but rather as a body dragged through New York by a smoke-spewing sports car.
Robert Pattinson stars as Connie Nikas, a delusional New York drifter surviving on dirty money and hustling for his desperate girlfriend. Of more issue is his brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), whose mental issues have seen him torn between a cruel-but-kind grandmother, and Connie’s well-meaning but dangerous impulses. Unfortunately, when the latter wins over, Nick finds himself on Rikers Island – with Connie scrambling to get him out. What follows is a lunatic odyssey into the night, as a desperate man attempts to get his brother out of prison – by whatever means necessary.
Whilst this story is the driving force of Good Time, it only serves to give us something to root for – the Safdie brothers are much more concerned with giving us, well, a good time. ‘This is Rain Man on acid’, I thought in the opening five minutes. But by the time Robert Pattinson was sprinting down crowded streets, caked in blood-orange tracer paint and yelling incoherently at some unseen presence, the film seemed rather different. It’s Enter the Void by way of Hotline Miami: an ultra-violent, crazed, epilepsy-inducing frenzy set in a perpetual night, taking place at roughly the same speed we’re watching it. As the audience, we’re balanced on a knife edge and it’s thrilling to behold. This is right here, right now cinema – so undeniably, inescapably present that you can’t help but feel involved in the action.
It’s damn beautiful as well. To gain an idea of the aesthetic of Good Time, imagine a spectacular neon rainbow, dipped in mud, filmed on textured 35mm, and played back on a CRT television in a cupboard: it radiates vintage energy. The Safdies have crafted a piece of work that paradoxically treads the line between social-realism and Grindhouse excess both in style and substance. For a film that, at one point, features a storyline revolving around finding a Sprite bottle of LSD in a deserted ghost train, it feels surprisingly authentic.
Sean Price Williams alternates between grainy, gritty frames with diegetic sound and ordinary passers-by as opposed to actors; and day-glo excess punctuated by harsh synth noise. Oneohtrix Point Never not only provides one of the most full-out assaultive scores I’ve ever heard in a movie, but also one of the most perfect as a companion to the on-screen action: aggressive, pulsating, and possessed of a retro fascination, nay, fetishisation, despite its contemporary stylings.
Given that he’s the main screen presence, it’s pleasing that the standard of acting from Robert Pattinson is absolutely insane. His turn as an abominable dirtbag is by turns terrifying and hilarious, a sick act in encouraging audience sympathy to what is essentially the breakdown of a selfish piece of shit hellbent on taking advantage of others to satisfy his own morally repugnant aims.
This is not a film to watch on a hangover: brash, loud, and nauseatingly colourful, Good Time turns the theatre into more of a funfair than the cinema. It’s a full frontal sensory assault of the highest order, and a pure cinematic spectacle the likes of which are usually reserved for top-tier blockbusters. The title may be ironic for its fractured characters, but for the audience, it’s spot on – even if it did give me a bit of a headache.
Featured image: Metro.