Review: A ‘Good Time’ Was Not Had By This Critic

Nick and Connie Nikas are brothers, like Josh and Benny Safdie, the directors of “Good Time.” Nick — played by Benny Safdie — is mentally disabled, while Connie (Robert Pattinson) might charitably be described as an idiot. Motivated by a volatile mix of desperation and bravado, he involves Nick in a poorly planned, haphazardly executed bank robbery. You can bet money on a disastrous outcome, though you might not foresee the precise sequence of mayhem and farce that unfolds on the streets of Queens over a single freezing night. The caper includes an after-hours visit to an amusement park, a soda bottle full of LSD, a case of mistaken identity and plenty of chases, beatings and narrow escapes.

The Safdies are as clever and crafty as Connie is inept and impulsive. “Good Time,” their third co-directed fictional feature — after the autobiographical “Daddy Longlegs” and the addiction romance “Heaven Knows What” — moves smartly and propulsively to the stressed-out strains of Daniel Lopatin’s edge-of-a-heart-attack score. The smudgy, grimy urban landscape — emergency rooms, fast-food restaurants, blocks of modest, over-mortgaged, squeezed-together houses — is shot (by Sean Price Williams) with a fastidious avoidance of prettiness. The story doesn’t twist and turn so much as squirm and jump like an eel in the bottom of a rowboat. The biggest surprises confirm what an unbelievable slimeball Connie is. He’s about as hard to root for as any movie outlaw you can think of.

And yet, partly because Mr. Pattinson’s movie-star incandescence can’t quite be obscured by facial hair and bad lighting, and partly because of the immutable laws of genre and spectacle, you sort of have no choice but to root for him. You’re stuck with him, and you might as well make the best of it. The Safdies have explored this kind of ambiguity before. In “Daddy Longlegs,” the wayward father, played by Ronald Bronstein (a character based on their own father), was appalling and charming in almost equal measure; his charisma both enabled and camouflaged his wanton irresponsibility. You might have recoiled in horror at his recklessness, but you couldn’t deny that he loved his kids.


Trailer: ‘Good Time’

A preview of the film.

By A24 on Publish Date August 16, 2017. Image courtesy of Internet Video Archive. Watch in Times Video »

Connie, for his part, adores his brother and has a way with dogs. While these traits don’t exactly make him likable, they grant him a minimal benefit of the doubt. His manipulation of his girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) isn’t nice, but on the other hand she is so whiny and needy that you can’t feel too bad. Connie also has the good luck (at least as far as the audience’s good graces are concerned) of falling in with the one guy in Queens who could make him look like a criminal genius — a gangly doofus named Ray (Buddy Duress), who has been spending his first days out of jail aggressively pursuing the opposite of rehabilitation.


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This pair is not exactly Butch and Sundance, even in their own addled, delusional minds. And while Ray is hapless and almost heroically stupid, Connie is a more complicated, less clownish figure. He has a hint of heart, as well as a cruel, predatory streak that the Safdies’ expose for shocks and laughs, daring you to either take offense or take the joke, and banking on your queasiness in either case.

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Review: A ‘Good Time’ Was Not Had by This Critic
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