Review: Good Time


 

“Don’t be confused, it is just going to make it worse for me.”

This might be the line that best sums up Good Time, a high stress ultra-stylized sprint through the nether regions and institutions of New York City at night. The picture is shot in gloriously frenetic close-ups imbued with a unique pulse. A rhythm that builds its own kind of character-based mood. Kaleidoscopic colours, and film grain rendered via capture on analogue stock, hold up magnificently even when projected digitally. But sit close to the screen at your own risk.

With the exception of the opening and closing scenes, and a brief breather when two characters sit down on the couch and watch a few minutes of COPS on television, things are brilliantly dense in the handling of urgent and fucked up situations. There are layers upon layers (physically echoed in the wardrobe of the lead character) of things happening at any given moment in the frame. And these are happening at speed. Characters talk (and shout) over top of one another, and yet the exquisite sound design and superbly executed camera work never leave the audience behind.

The soul of the picture is the knotty relationship between two brothers. Constantine ‘Connie’ Nikas is wholly inhabited by Robert Pattinson; a performance brimming with surprises. Pattinson’s recent run of work has demonstrated many talents that have been set free after the actor was freed from the mopey shackles of the Twilight franchise.

Connie is a gifted and clever criminal, at in an improvisational sense, at the street level. With his bipolar girlfriend (a terrifyingly wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh) or his special needs brother, he finds himself surrounded by people who simply cannot keep up with his penchant for being in the moment. His brother Nick is somewhere on the spectrum, mostly deaf, and clearly requires an empathy and structured environment that Connie in incapable of ever providing.

Nick, played wonderfully by Ben Safdie, one of the two directors, is introduced in extreme close-up (naturally) in the quiet opening minutes of the film. He is in the office of a social worker who is trying to provide said empathy and structure at the request of his grandmother, who has had it with her grandsons petty criminal activities.

Minutes into the assessment he is forcibly dragged from the corner office by Connie to participate in an ill advised bank robbery to finance a trip and possibly a life out of poverty in Queens. At this point Daniel Lopatin’s (Oneohtrix Point Never) propulsive score kicks in and the chaotic energy of the film really never lets up.

Good Time is the ultimate pop-arthouse show-don’t-tell drama cum thrill ride. Fifty years ago, nobody would be able to follow a movie with so much going on at the same time. Our media processing sensibilities have arrived to this moment when the Safdie Brothers are wrestling editing and film-grammar to the ground – building upon moments from their previous picture, Heaven Knows What). They do so for our viewing pleasure without ever leaving our hearts or minds behind.

Using a combination of actors and real cops, prison guards and even gangsters, Good Time ratchets up the stress over (more or less) an all night odyssey of bad choices. In the tradition of After Hours (or Tchoupitoulas or Night On Earth) the bulk of film takes place over a short span of time, where anything can and will happen. Indeed when you put Jennifer Jason Leigh and Pattinson in a scene sparks o’ crazy fly off the screen. There is a scene in a bail bond office that is destined to be studied for years for its sheer chutzpah and craft.

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Dreaming in the Flickers

With Inception being the conversation du jour, one key splitting point on whether or not you are going to cry “Masterpiece” or merely “Top Notch Entertainment” for the film is how ‘mundane and rational’ the dream-state is portrayed. Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dom Cobb and his heist posse infiltrate, steal secrets and implant ideas into the mark by having him (or her) consciousness ‘shared in real time’ under the constraints of a maze-maker, The Architect, sort of a con-man (or woman) of the subconscious. The dreams as envisioned onscreen are represented in excruciatingly obvious metaphor at some times, with an elevator down to Cobb’s ‘basement of his subconscious’ and at others, like a full blown James Bond set-piece, as in the wintry fortress of solitude or elaborate car chases through town. It all looks like a (hundred) million bucks, but does it really dig into your brain? Nobody in Nolan’s world is standing naked in public or anxious (or self-indulgent) about much of anything, let alone violent sexuality or other taboo areas that the subconscious id may process when the super-ego is out of the picture.

It seems that dreaming and the movies have always been in sync with one another, from Buster Keaton’s Sherlock Jr. up to and including Guy Maddin‘s entire filmography (being a one artists personal cinema-laced fever-dream) and to action fare like the collective dream of The Matrix flicks.

So let us take a look at some other films that handle ‘dreaming’ portion of their narrative with a little more icky and a little more sticky, that is a lot less steel and polished glass and a lot more wounded flesh and psyche. Chime in with more entries I may have missed, there are many, some more obvious than others!

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DVD Review: Daytime Drinking

Daytime Drinking

You’ll have to excuse me, I’m not at my best,
I been gone for a week, I been drunk since I left;
And these so-called vacations will soon be my death,
I’m so sick from the drink, I need home for a rest.

While the lead character rarely seems to get intoxicated he sure gets his fill of the absurdities of social interaction. Daytime Drinking, a sly, if slightly overlong, South Korean indie plays as if Ricky Gervais wrote a remake of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours and envisioned it as loopy road trip. The fact that the film goes nowhere is a strength, not a weakness, as it allows for a string of co-incidences and the various social awkwardness that goes along with meeting strangers twice or three times at different places on the same weekend for no particular reason. Here, performing the duty, as it has for thousands of years, booze (and to a lesser extent, cigarettes) functions as the social lubricant for any encounter. Whether it be a few friends commiserating at a bar, or a random encounter at a bus stop, there is not much to say or do except pour, drain, repeat. This is the cosmic joke on Hyuk-Jin who suffering from being splits-ville with his girlfriend, and with whom we follow over the course of the film. It is a bit of a joke on the audience as well, because The opening 30 minutes or so might be a bit of a challenge for the viewer to acclimatize to first-time filmmaker Young-Seok Noh’s particular worldview.

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Movie Club Podcast #16: The Warriors and After Hours

It’s the Film Junk podcast crew (Sean and Jay) teaming up with Row Three’s Marina, Andrew, Kurt and Matt Gamble (a regular on the R3 Cinecast and Where the Long Tail Ends) in a nice roundtable discussion on two all-in-one-night New York odyssey films: Martin Scorcese’s intense and comedic After Hours, and Walter Hill’s colourful and stylish The Warriors.

The movie club is as much for the listeners as it is the contributors. Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section over at the movie club page and we’re happy to banter on with a little back and forth. Whether it is the comic book transitions added into the 2005 directors cut of The Warriors, or whether or not Griffin Dunne’s character is an asshole in After Hours, we were fairly passionate in the discussion. Enjoy the show!

Comments are turned off on this post, so head on over to THE MOVIE CLUB PODCAST site and listen or comment there.