How far is too far to save someone you love?
Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) blurs the line to the point of obscurity in Good Time, A24 Film’s (Get Out, Moonlight, and The Lobster) latest major art-house film. Is it okay to steal, to manipulate, or to destroy the lives of total strangers to accomplish what you believe is necessary and right? Good Time blends these ethically important questions with thrilling action, magnetic characters, and a compelling story into a great film. The title, however, does not describe the movie-going experience. Good Time is a great movie, but it’s not enjoyable. This is by no means a reason not to see this fantastic movie—it’s simply a warning.
The film opens on a conversation between Nick Nikas (Benny Safdie) and a psychologist. The psychologist asks Nick a series of questions in an attempt to gauge his developmental disability and his situation in life. Suddenly, the pair are interrupted by Connie, Nick’s protective and corruptive brother—an almost physical manifestation of their conversation. Connie pulls Nick out of the session, chased down the hall by the psychologists admonishments.
As the two brothers stride away, Connie chastises Nick for allowing himself to open up to the therapist and criticizes the profession generally. Connie seems to realize that he has upset his brother and is quick to shower love and affection on him, promising that he will protect Nick as long as Nick listens to him. From the start, the manipulative abilities of Connie are very apparent, but it’s clearly stemming from a place of love and concern for his brother.
Astonishingly, Connie and Nick are then shown performing a silent bank robbery.
When they make their escape, they open the bag and are immediately covered with red dye. After a hasty clean-up, the brothers are approached by a passing police car. At first, it seems that Connie will be able to talk their way out of this, but Nick bolts.
They are chased by the police through multiple stores, with Nick following closely behind Connie. Connie pulls ahead, passing through an automatic glass door, but Nick doesn’t recognize the glass on one side. He crashes through the glass and collapses on the pavement. He is immediately arrested while Connie escapes, horrified.
All this unfolds in the 15-minute opening. Even at this early point in the movie, it’s easy to see the extent of Good Time’s quality. The performances are magnetic. Pattinson is almost unrecognizable in his role as Connie, mainly because he isn’t a pale and sparkly teen-heartthrob á la Twilight. He embodies the sleazy, manipulative, yet determined character.
Good Time is also a visually pleasing movie. Often the camera will steadily focus on the characters in a scene, while neon lights and signs blur out in the background. This cinematography and visual directing creates a trippy and near-psychedelic effect. The film contrasts these colorful bright spots with enclosing darkness. In these scenes, the characters and action are illuminated by pulsing colors, but much of the background is indistinguishable.
Good Time spends the rest of its run time on Connie, and his attempt to gather $10,000 bail money to get his brother out of Ryker’s Island. At this point, Good Time begins its descent into moral obscurity. Connie’s motives are pure—he wants to protect his brother, but he is not the hero of this story. Connie was the one who used his brother’s idolization to garner his help in the bank robbery. He also uses his influence on his girlfriend, Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh), to manipulate her into doing everything he wants.
As the film progresses, it gets both better and worse. The movie gets better character development and poses increasingly poignant questions to the audience as it goes along. But this development only shows Connie’s journey to save his brother, with each step costing more and more of his humanity. These questions don’t have easy or morally reconcilable answers, and the visuals, while beautiful, portray horrifying actions by the characters. Good Time grips the audience. One cannot look away from this high-quality film, but many certainly may want to. Connie’s unstoppable desire to save his brother, even at the cost of his own life and others, is both mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time.
Featured Image By A24