Good Time

Good Time ★★★


After reading Neil Bahadur's review of Good Time, I fear I may be underrating it, and I certainly cannot improve on what he's written. There's a rather obnoxious internet meme where folks sarcastically label a story "huge if true," but Bahadur's analysis of Good Time actually fits the bill.

Just to clarify, on a single viewing I felt as though the film was largely out of control of its racial significations, alighting on vital concepts without the wherewithal to see them through. However, if the racial dimension of the Safdies' film is as precise as Bahadur claims it is, it would really make Good Time one of the most significant films of the 21st century. At this moment, when African-Americans are being summarily executed in the streets with utter impunity, here we may have a film that displays the monstrousness of white masculinity, and in particular the wanton violence that white men visit upon the black community on a daily basis.

Connie (Robert Pattinson, outstanding) is truly amoral, making decisions from moment to moment based on his own perception of need. In this way he is no better than a feral dog. He is loyal to his brother Nick (Benny Safdie), but not enough to refrain from using him like a tool -- an alpha maneuver if ever there was one. Throughout his long dark night of soullessness, Connie destroys every "obstacle" in his path, or manipulates them in some manner that will inevitably result in them incurring harm. And these human stepping stones are almost all African-American.

From the moment the brothers rob the bank in rubberized blackface, Connie is counting on his whiteness as the ultimate disguise, and the evening's magic passkey. At the Caribbean woman's apartment, Connie even bleaches his hair bright blonde, making himself virtually Aryan in an attempt to further conceal himself in plain sight.

If there are flaws in Good Time, they are the result of the Safdies painting themselves into a corner, adopting this electrifyingly radical premise without the social imagination to see beyond it. Connie's monologue to Ray (Buddy Duress) about his relative worthlessness is entirely too on-the-nose, as is the concluding statement by Nick's therapist (Peter Verby) that everyone has "ended up where they belong." While it's certainly true that the final scene under the credits, with Nick in a feelings-management class, hardly represents a happy ending, it does feel like an abandonment of the racial dialectic that has been powering Good Time as insistently as its driving electronic soundtrack.

Is this an error of omission, or is it the Safdies performing the film's own problematic, in which only the white people's needs are attended to? I honestly don't know.

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