Cannes 2017: Pattinson is So Good & So Bad in Safdie Bros' 'Good Time'
by Alex Billington
May 27, 2017
This is what happens when there isn't a single character worth caring about in a film - it's not compelling. Good Time is the latest film from the Safdie Brothers, also known as Benny Safdie and Josh Safdie, of the films Heaven Knows What and Daddy Longlegs previously. Set in contemporary New York City, this ultra-stylish crime thriller stars Robert Pattinson as a careless wannabe criminal known as Connie Nikas. Pattinson is pretty much the only reason this is worth watching, as he's so incredibly good in this film, and does his best to make his unlikable character likable. But it doesn't overcome that giant flaw, and although it's somewhat interesting to see the story play out, there's just nothing else that makes this film memorable.
In an attempt to provide a better life for his mentally challenged brother, Connie convinces his brother Nick (played by Ben Safdie) to join him and rob a bank. While all goes as planned at the bank, the bank is filled with ink and his brother gets caught. Connie gets desperate and tries anything and everything to get him out of the jail. But man is he stupid, making mistake after mistake, causing more problems as his desperation grows. This film is merely about a dumb criminal who leaves a wake of chaos and destruction, dragging in innocent people. But there isn't a single person in it that's likable. Anyone who appears or gets caught up in the chaos just feels like another person that isn't even worth caring about. Maybe Barkhad Abdi's security guard character is the only one who has a good side, but he's in this so briefly it doesn't make a difference.
Of course, not every film needs likable characters. And it's possible to tell thrilling stories with unlikable characters if you can still build a strong film around them. Good Time just doesn't do a good job establishing any emotion or any reason or anything that should make us feel anything for the characters we encounter. Not a single one. I don't care what happens to them, especially when they bring it on themselves, which is the case with Connie. There's even a twist halfway through that introduces a new character, and I found it annoying because here's another person we don't give a crap about, yet now the story is all about him. Ugh. Give us something, and maybe I'd feel better, but this never gives us anything to grab onto the entire time.
There's no redemption for Connie, which is what I was hoping we might see. Instead, it's all about how bad he is and how dumb he is, and damnit, he still gives an outstanding performance. It's also hard to complain about the film's style, which is vibrant and kinetic and intimate, highlighting the dingy streets of New York City with occasional fluorescent accents. The best part of this film is probably the music and score, used throughout as part of the driving force behind the narrative. There's some sides of Good Time that are intriguing, but overall it felt impressively mediocre and never really amounted to anything in the end. Bank robbers get caught? So what. Criminals are chased? Big deal. Dumb decisions are made? Okay, I don't care. Is that all there is? That's it? Give me something to care about, and maybe I'll enjoy the film more next time.
Alex's Cannes 2017 Rating: 6 out of 10
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