If Lenny and George from Of Mice and Men embark on a dark journey to a life of crime in electric neon, you’ll have the Safdie Brothers’ Good Time — a film that visually thrills and spins viewers into exhilaration. It’s a moral reversal of Lenny and George’s methods of striving what they want to have, and how this affects their misfortunes. Good Time is not really a Good Time for the characters.
In place of Lenny and George, we have Nick (Ben Safdie) and Connie (Robert Pattinson), two brothers who live a life of crime in order to escape their nagging grandmother and become free men living free lives. Nick is Lenny, a thugish-built, mentally handicapped man struggling to make a life for himself, and his brother Connie is his only friend and protector. While Nick obeys the decisions of his grandmother to seek help from medical professionals, Connie believes that only he can make his brother’s life better through crime. And here we see the reverse parallels of Good Time and Of Mice and Men.
Of Mice and Men deals with how people struggle to achieve their goals while keeping themselves in good behavior. We realize that it’s not that easy to attain something when the actions of selfish men affect how things turn out. Do good but there’s no guarantee of success. Good Time subverts this idea, by pivoting the measure into an act of corrupted deeds. Here, the goal is of good welfare but the means are questionable. In order to live a comfortable life, one must go to extreme measures. The reasoning is of instant success. Rob a bank, you get instant cash. No further work needed. But while one does his best in his own terms, men of goodness will always try to foil these actions. The hands of justice will always find a way.
In Good Time, while trying to run away after a bank robbery-gone-wrong, Nick accidentally breaks a window glass rendering him unconscious. Connie, not knowing what has happened, continues to run while Nick gets arrested. In an act of desperation to bail his brother out, Connie does what he does best — try to bust his brother out. A series of unfortunate events occurs, even picking up the wrong guy during his planned escape, and we are led into a neon lighted nightmare that we can’t consider as a good time.
For us viewers, we also are not having a good time. Not in a way that the film is bad, but in the way that it affects us emotionally. We don’t feel any sympathy for Connie, we know there isn’t an ounce of redeeming quality that he has (Does getting innocent people involved in one’s crimes a ground for sympathy?). Do we want Nick to get out? Yes, in a way, but only in so much as out of jail and into the hands of those who can take care of him more. Instead, we revel on how Connie gets into trouble after trouble. But we can’t say that what we feel about him is hatred, nor justice. It isn’t indifference either.
We can thank the glorious Robert Pattinson for making us believe this character. His performance is work of transcendence. He has grown to be one chameleon of an actor, making us forget his earlier role as a brooding, character-less vampire. He has taken himself as a great role-player of an odd, suffering man, from The Rover to The Lost City of Z, and now Good Time. Even one of the directors, Ben Safdie himself was great and natural as Nick.
In the end, Good Time is a hell of a cinematic ride, taking us from the usual good guy trying to survive scenario to an amoral man trying to get out of the suffering from the consequences of his actions. In the end, it isn’t George who gets to walk to the sunset, it’s finally Lenny who is given the chance to find his.