Good Time

Good Time ★★★★½

It’s taken almost a decade of professional filmmaking for Josh and Benny Safdie to get to their genre movie—their "tapehead classic"—but it’s good that they got to it now. They’ve slowly transitioned away from a predilection toward abstract and dreamlike characterizations, which were present in their student films, their early features, and even in their documentary film Lenny Cooke. Those first two narrative films each built to unreal moments where the lead character essentially confronts a symbol—in Pleasure, when a recently-arrested woman passes through a zoo and plays with a fellow caged animal, and in Longlegs, when a beleaguered father imagines a human-sized mosquito squatting in his apartment, yet another domestic quandary he can’t quite figure out. Scenes like that place the weight of subtext, even cosmic significance, onto individual characters, and with a heaviness those films risk buckling under. But in the films that follow— in some of the shorts made after Daddy Longlegs, in Heaven Knows What, and in Good Time—you see the directors grow past that tendency. They’ve reached a point where they can find their symbols inside the reality of the people they’re depicting: in Good Time, that includes a Sprite bottle loaded with acid, which for these characters might as well be a bucket of gold. And of course Connie's nonstop sprinting, from potential target to potential target—from job to job—brings its own deeper significance. These are the kinds of symbols that never throw off the film’s rhythm—they never interrupt what Benny called its “constant movement”. So even when hinting towards the cosmic, Good Time is keeping its eye trained on the specifics of its situation: focused on what’s valuable in this milieu, or on how the people in this culture talk and communicate and manipulate, or on how they look and dress, or on Buddy Duress. Their films now seem invested in the textures of people, moreso than in whatever those people might represent. And even while Good Time treats lights, sounds, and places with expressive abandon, the Safdie brothers manage to present their characters as nothing more than who they are. 

Interviewed the Safdies and wrote about their movies for this week's Dig Boston.

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