Jerry Seinfeld joked that his show was about nothing. Well, now there's a film named Good Time that can keep it company, though Seinfeld had humor to entertain us, an element sorely lacking in the movie. Instead, it relies on technical bravado -- all nervous, jittery style and pounding, screechy soundtrack -- with no real substance aside from Robert Pattinson's marvelous performance.
Two brothers -- Connie and Nick Nikas -- rob a bank with, of course, dire consequences. Police capture Nick, mentally slow and quick to anger, injured and hospitalized. Over one long night, the lion's share of the story, Connie connives, lies, and scrambles to get Nick back. Many unexpected twists and turns propel the action, with Connie's quick, not always wise, decisions.
Directors Ben and Josh Safdie deliver all the events with loads of close-ups, a moving camera, and a ramped up (often annoying) Daniel Lopatin soundtrack. Cinematographer Sean Price Williams saturates the screen with various colors and neon or compositions almost too dark to be seen. With apologies now to Faulkner, this is sound and fury signifying nothing.
The most compelling aspect of Good Time is Robert Pattinson as Connie. With implosive intensity and guile born of desperation, Pattinson bobs and weaves his way forward like a rat in a maze, though what Connie never realizes is how responsible he is for that maze. In small roles, Taliah Webster as Crystal and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Corey lend strong support. I often felt more interest in their stories.
Brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie have written that they wanted to make "an action-packed thriller . . . a popcorn film . . . entertainment that rockets you to another world." The episodic construction here does keep the film rushing along which it needs so we don't notice the lack of depth. That isn't what they intend, fair enough, up front notice that this is a thriller they want played with loud sound. I want something to chew on, and so in what I have to consider an ironic title, Good Time is screening at Landmark's Tivoli Cinema and several Wehrenberg Cinemas. Check local listings.