What happened to the French New Wave? It fizzled out, leaving only a limited impression on Hollywood. That Cinema-verité style brought the audience closer to the action, to the characters, and to reality. In modern cinema, it’s more or less extinct. But thanks to the Safdie brothers, the Nouvelle Vague hasn’t died – it was merely sleeping.
In Good Time, the Safdie brothers return to the mean streets of New York City as Connie (Robert Pattinson) and his mentally unstable brother Nick (Benny Safdie) engage in a low-key bank robbery. Although their methods are smart and silent, Nick is caught by the cops during the getaway. Connie embarks on a gritty, day-long odyssey to get his brother back.
As with their 2015 social realist film Heaven Knows What, the Safdies explore poor people and delinquents pushed to the backwater of society – only this time with a pulpy plotline, much like the Nouvelle Vague filmmakers of old. The action is unceasing, constantly moving from moment to moment without any break for character-revealing retrospection. Every opportunity for Connie to open up is quickly shut down. The one flashback in the movie is told by the drug-pushing ex-convict Ray (Buddy Duress), a character worthy of Irvine Welsh, serving only to dictate the protagonist’s next move. The characters would’ve been more emotionally engaging had they revealed more about themselves, but that would disrupt the action. Connie is locked into an eternal present.
Pattinson gives a harsh, gritty performance as Connie – reaching a level of realism that rips apart the fantasies of Twilight and David Cronenberg. One would be disappointed if he didn’t receive an Oscar nomination and the same goes for Benny Safdie, who delivers a heartbreaking character despite his sinfully short screen-time. Nick’s innocence is constantly in our minds, if not up on screen. Every performance has a natural sharpness – we are watching real people.
Good Time doesn’t reach the same level of harrowing grit and New Wave technique as Heaven Knows What, but re-electrifies a dying genre. Sean Price Williams’s close and quick cinematography (very verité) mixed with a bedazzling soundtrack from Oneohtrix Point Never plunges the viewer into Connie’s dark and restless world. We don’t know much about him but we feel for him, which is where the Safdie brothers really excel. Let’s hope they’ve paved a way for another New Wave in Hollywood, one we can lament in the future.
Good Time is released nationwide on 17th November 2017.
Watch the trailer for Good Time here: