Friday, September 22, 2017

He Belongs to the City: A Film Review of Good Time, by Alec Frazier and Autistic Reality

Connie Nikas Coming Out of A Bottle of Acid in a Poster for Good Time
The film Good Time, directed by the brothers Benny and Josh Safdie, is an absolute thrill ride and it epitomizes how a very good film can be made on a small budget.

Summary:

Connie and Nick Nikas in a Poster for Good Time
Robert Pattinson stars as Connie Nikas, a Resident of Queens of Greek descent. He cares a great deal about his brother, Nick, played by Benny Safdie, and does try very hard to do right by him. Connie shows up at the beginning of the film to take his brother out of a counseling session. You see, Nick has developmental disabilities, and Connie just wants to do right by him. Of course, the counselor also wants to do right by him. The views of family members versus the views of “the system” often conflict. Often there is not a clear answer of who is in the right. On the one hand, the questions during the counseling session are making Nick cry, on the other hand, Connie does not have the best of intentions either.

The main thrust of the film starts when Connie manipulates his brother Nick into attempting a bank robbery with him. A chase ensues, and Nick gets arrested. Connie tries to use the stolen money to get Nick out on bail, but since the money is dirty, he ends up having to go to his girlfriend, the significantly older Corey Ellman, who is played flawlessly by Jennifer Jason Leigh. Ellman has quite a fickle personality, and this obviously means that she has a great deal of trouble making decisions. This is further evidenced by the fact that she lives with her mother, with whom she has a bad relationship; they bicker and argue frequently. Connie lies to Corey about the reason why his brother is in jail, but it is all for naught as when Corey tries to use her bank card to bail Nick out, she finds that her mother has canceled it. The night spirals downward even further from here.

Nick had gotten into a fight with another inmate, and was placed in a hospital under guarded supervision. Connie finds out which hospital, finds the police guarding a room, and breaks out the heavily bandaged man handcuffed in that room. He proceeds to further manipulate his way to a very bad neighborhood in residential Queens, and into an old lady’s house, where he attempts to distract her 16-year-old granddaughter, Crystal, played by newcomer Taliah Lennice Webster, with sex. Keep in mind that Robert Pattison is 31, and we are to assume that Connie is of a similar age. The inmate Connie broke out of the hospital wakes up, and pries off his bandages, only to reveal that he is a stranger, Ray, played by Buddy Duress. Connie manages to calm him down with painkillers, and they trick Crystal into accompanying them on a trip in her grandmother’s car.

References on the television throughout the film infer that law enforcement is getting closer to finding Connie, we also see police talking to people seen previously in the film. We learned that Ray had a wild ride of his own the previous day, and left a bottle full of acid and a bag of cash in an amusement park ride a few streets down from where he, Connie, and Crystal are currently laying low. Ray and Connie break into the amusement park, leaving Crystal in the car. They are cornered by Dash the security guard, played by Barkhad Abdi. Dash calls the police, but Ray and Connie managed to overwhelm him. Connie then impersonates the security guard, and the paramedics and police take away Dash, who has been force-fed some of the acid. At the same time, Crystal is also taken in for questioning. Connie and Ray escape to Dash’s apartment in his security vehicle. Upon arriving at the apartment, it is becomes apparent that Dash engages in illicit activity as he is living well above his means. Connie has Ray call his dealer and demands the cash he needs to bail out his brother Nick. The dealer leaves, ostensibly to get the cash, but in actuality to get a gun with which to kill Connie. It is at this point that the police close in on them. Ray accidentally kills himself when trying to escape the apartment, and Connie is taken away by the police.

In the final scene, the therapist from the first scene in the film takes Nick Nikas to a boring, monotonous group activity for those with developmental disabilities, while remarking that Connie is now in the right place, and that Nick is in the right place, too.

Analysis:


This film is incredibly thought-provoking. It goes beyond questions of right and wrong, and into degrees of personal accountability. One thing that should be noted is that this entire film after the bank robbery and before the final scene takes place over the course of just one night. During that night, we get to delve deep into the psyche of Connie Nikas. It is extremely clear that he loves his brother a great deal. At one point, he tells Nick that it is just the two of them against the world. It is true that they both have a very aged grandmother, but she is incapable of looking after them. Connie obviously believes that the bank robbery will be simple and easy. He lacks foresight, and this makes him a poor planner.

After the robbery, Connie’s dive into further crime is gradual. It all starts with a lie he tells Corey as to why his brother has been incarcerated; he tells her that Nick lashed out against his therapist. Connie clearly does not like the idea of Nick going to therapy, and this is consistent with toxic masculinity as well as some Greek-American cultural norms, which believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Throughout the film, Connie consistently believes that things are either out of his control or most definitely not his fault, or both. For example, Crystal mentions that her last boyfriend was her drug dealer, who was significantly older than herself. This makes it a non-issue to Connie when he starts to force himself upon her a while later. Ironically, Connie later attempts dealing drugs himself with the bottle of acid.

It is as if Connie does not notice how deep he is slipping. He quite willingly suggests drugging the security guard and posing in his place. Breaking and entering into the amusement park is nothing to him. Given that Connie’s first significant act in this film is a bank robbery, we can only hazard a guess into his past, although we are made aware at one point during the film that he has a record; we see a past mug shot of Connie on the news.

Connie shows a great deal of willingness to manipulate others. He is aware that Corey has psychological issues that give her weakness and malleability, as well as a willingness to help with finances. It is hinted that before the events of this film, they were planning a trip to the Caribbean, perhaps to be assisted with the money from the bank robbery. Nick is also incredibly malleable, doing whatever others tell him to do. Connie uses this to his advantage in getting Nick to assist him with his various nefarious schemes. The therapist is equally able to convince Nick to do his bidding. It is not in Nick’s best interest to spend his days in monotonous, clinical group activities. However, Nick does not have an in-built group of friends, and the clinical system is still often ill-versed in the social needs of those with disabilities.

The amazing thing about Connie is that he probably believes that everything he has done, including the bank robbery and the actions of this fateful night are without question and in the right. Connie is extremely well-intentioned, but he has shown himself to be addicted to bad behavior, and even deeply sociopathic. The fact that he thinks nothing of kidnapping a 16-year-old girl or having sexual relations with her is proof of this. At one point, Ray asks him about his intentions. Connie makes it clear that he is focused on the here and now, and not the consequences of his actions. There is something deeply flawed about Connie Nikas, but he is portrayed in such a way that we can still have a tremendous amount of empathy for him.

Robert Pattinson on the Cover of Wonderland Magazine
This portrayal, of course, comes courtesy of Robert Pattinson. Pattinson was thrust into the film world by the Harry Potter and Twilight films. He jokes that if he had his way, he would be a nobody in a British dive bar playing guitar and singing for a living. Pattinson is absolutely stunned and surprised by his fame, but not unhappy with it. He has spent his time since the Twilight franchise becoming a fixture in the independent film community. Pattinson is definitely a more artistic type, as is shown in his quite recent photo shoot for Wonderland magazine, in which he pays tribute to Yayoi Kusama, who is arguably the greatest artist alive today. In the photo shoot, Pattinson pays homage to Kusama by wearing gender-ambiguous costumes similar to hers, and posing amongst backgrounds evocative of her art. An artist is truly fearless when they are willing to deny social constructs such as gender, and Pattinson is clearly that brave.

Yayoi Kusama with One of Her Famed Pumpkins
In addition to acting, Good Time is also noteworthy for its locations. The film shies away from the glitzy and famous locations in New York City, instead placing itself amongst bad neighborhoods, mostly in Queens. There have been far too many films exploiting the New York City of tourists, and far too few focusing on the city of everyday people. The Safdie brothers are to be praised for their realism.

Good time defies one specific genre. It is incredibly philosophical, action-packed, and dramatic all at once. It is clear that none of the characters in the film are actually having a Good Time, but this is a very, very good film, and you, the audience, will.


Five out of five stars, or 10 out of 10. Absolutely flawless.

This blog posting is both the personal opinion of Alec Frazier, and the professional policy of his advocacy firm, Autistic Reality. If you oppose it, please screen grab it! We are very proud of this opinion!

1 comment:

  1. Although I had to skip the first part, simply because I haven't seen the movie yet and I already know too much about it as it is, I enjoyed your fluidly shared conclusions and insightful onservations. I personally love all those extra infos on Kusama’s and Rob's specifics and I enjoyed your review a lot!

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