Robert Pattinson has left the ghosts of Cedric Diggory of Hogwarts and Edward Cullen of Forks in his wake with his edgy role in “Good Time.”
Rest assured, Bella Swan would not have swooned over Connie Nikas.
Connie is a loving brother to Nick, his mentally-disabled kin. That’s a plus. But everything else about Connie lies somewhere between lost and psychotic. He has the jitters of an addict searching for drugs, but his plight is more existential than chemical.
The thin story revolves around an inept bank robbery by the two brothers, wearing racist masks. They barely escape, but soon Nick is arrested, while Connie frantically eludes the police net.
For 24 hours, Connie’s sole goal in life is to free his brother no matter what it takes. His obsession with saving his brother plays out like a psychedelic nightmare. Connie will manipulate an old girlfriend, exploit a young black girl and her mom, beat up a security guard and hide in circus house of horrors before the forensics net closes around him.
The script has no discernible destination, but rather unfolds like a warped stream of consciousness.
Sometimes dark, disjointed journeys led by anti-heroes can be mesmerizing as in “Taxi Driver,” for example.
And most critics are applauding “Good Time” is if it were a blend of Coen Brothers and Scorsese. Count me among those who were left cold by the frantic pointless script.
The only saving grace, and it’s a potent one, is Robert Pattinson. He’s not just the center of “Good Time” he is the entirety of “Good Time.”
Pattinson gives us reasons to like Connie even while he’s living a dead-end violent life. Connie loves his brother. He will stop in the middle of a chase to help an elderly hospital patient. He drags another hospital patient along by mistake, then looks out for him.
And yet Connie has no moral compass to guide him. He’s a cornered loser.
Great films often explore the contradictions inside human nature. Good people trip over their tragic flaws. Psychopaths have moments where they pet a dog or save a child. The “Godfather” is all about a family that loves each other while splattering blood across communities.
“Good Times” tries hard to paint that same kind of complex moral portrait, but does so inside a totally random narrative. Pattinson tries his best to be a beacon of light in a slushy rainstorm, but it’s not enough.
The Safdie brothers who co-direct the film are artists, that’s certain. They don’t succumb to feel-good compromises. They embrace darkness.
I applaud the Safdie clan and look forward to their next venture.
But not every gloomy trip down a dark alley is great cinema. Sometimes it’s just a dark alley.