I don’t know what it is but all of the movies I have seen in theaters recently have been incredibly stressful to watch (Baby Driver and Dunkirk come to mind). Good Time is no exception. Taking place over less than twenty-four hours and clocking in at a nice hour and forty minutes this movie packs a lot in and does not give you much time to catch your breath.
Good Time is the fifth film from Joshua and Ben Safdie. The film follows Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) as he navigates Queens New York in order to get together enough money to bail his mentally handicapped brother Nick (Benny Safdie) out of jail after the two unsuccessfully rob a bank and Nick is arrested.
When tensions are about to reach a boiling point at the beginning of the third act, Nikas breaks into an amusement park in Queens in order to retrieve some money that was stashed in a haunted house ride. As he searches the ride lights are flashing, loud noises blare in and out, and the whole scene is bathed in a loud neon color pallet interspersed with large portions of the frame that fall completely to black. You feel lost in the space as you watch this. The camera doesn’t allow you to get a feel for your surroundings. You are attached to Nikas and have no choice but to be dragged along with him.
This scene is a sort of metaphor for the movie as whole. From start to finish the the Safdie brothers shows you a dingy New York City reminiscent of Mean Streets and The Warriors but with the absurd color pallet of Spring Breakers. The film oscillates between moments of extreme chaos and noise to nail biting and extremely uncomfortable silence. The score by Onehtrix Point Never can creep up out of nowhere and immediately crank the tension of a scene to 11 (more on that later).
Pattinson’s performance is justified in how vile it can make you feel. He presents a protagonist that is extremely unlikeable but unrelentless in his goal of protecting his brother (possibly the only character trait that makes the viewer empathetic). He does not stop moving once during 100 minutes and the camera struggles to follow him throughout his journey. Yet there is something very satisfying about watching Pattinson navigate from scheme to scheme. Using his charm and appealing to people’s more trusting nature he invades and manipulates the lives of strangers who he encounters throughout the night in order to get what he wants. But with every step he takes he only digs a deeper hole for himself.
This film is not subtle at all in its style. If you are expecting a calm meditation on New York crime, this is not that film. It is a roller coaster. It is excessive with its score, sound design, and cinematography. But where some films can be bogged down with this excessiveness, Good Time finds its soul. This film picks you up, shakes you up, and then spits you into the gutter. But it’s a hell of a ride to take.
While there are plenty of parts of this film that we can devote time to discussing, one part that truly stands out is the original score by Daniel Lopatin (released under his moniker of Oneohtrix Point Never). If you listen to Oneohtrix Point Never’s discography you realize that his music has that rare ability to make you feel soul breaking depression, immense rage, and eventually elation. He’s someone who has been pushing the boundaries of electronic and avante-garde music for the past few years. Like Good Time, his music may not be the most stable, calming, or even pleasant to listen to. But he manages to create a universe of his own in each of his albums. And after listening to one of his albums in full, there is always an emotional catharsis that follows.
Those familiar with his work will recognize the atonal rage found on his most recent LP Garden of Delete, the droney synth arpeggiations found in his earlier release such as Rifts, as well as the granular chant like vocal samples found in R Plus Seven. While Lopatin draws on his past work to form this soundtrack, he doesn’t hesitate to experiment with new sonic textures. When listening to the soundtrack on its own you can recognize his use of diegetic sound of the film sampled in the actual score or influencing the tone of the music. While Lopatin is no stranger to exploring samples to form his sound (listen to his album Replica if you haven’t) his approach here takes the world of this film and elevates it from its dark reality, adding a more ethereal science fiction aspect to this gritty New York thriller.
Many people have compared this score to the work of Cliff Martinez on Drive as a way of describing Lopatin’s approach to the material. While this may be a good jumping off point to describing what Lopatin is doing, it is still a disservice to compare the two as equals. This is in part because of how much room the Safdie brothers give Lopatin to create his own vision for the sonic world of this film. Because of this, Lopatin ultimately delivers a score that enhances the film yet can still have a spot of its own in the diverse and ever growing Oneohtrix Point Never discography.
Brandon’s Rating: 10 out of 10 stars plus a Sprite bottle filled with LSD