It’s always refreshing when films live up to their name, and few films are as aptly titled as Good Time. A brash and bold film about brothers, the film firmly establishes Ben and Josh Safdie among the most exciting of American indie filmmakers. Their immaculate crafting of the narrative, mixing heist antics with deep character beats, elicits positive comparisons to Lumet’s '70s output, yet there remains an inherent freshness in their work, never devolving into mere nostalgia.
A great deal of the power of the film comes from a bravura performance by Robert Pattinson. Once again the Twilight star shows he’s far more than a sparkly vamp, and his take as Connie Nikas firmly establishes his chops as a subtle, intense, charismatic performer.
Following Good Time’s bow in competition at Cannes the work saw its North American Premiere at Montreal’s Fantasia where Pattinson regaled a select group about their film. Here’s some of what we learned:
On empowering indie directors with built-in star power.
It's funny that you're saying empowering these people - I'm literally just begging them to work with me! I'd never seen any of [the brothers’] movies, I remember seeing this photo [from one of their films]. It’s just is so rare to feel a powerful connection with a photo, it's very strange. I sent them an e-mail just saying I want to do a film with you and I don't actually care what it is. I don't think I've ever done that in my life! I wanted to do a performance where basically every single character is not in any way passive at all.
What draws Pattinson to a project
I wish I knew, I'd tell my agent! There's definitely a part of me that likes to do the opposite of what I did the last time. As soon as I try to say I'm looking for a part that's an anti-hero or something then my agent will try to find something that fits into that category. Yet as soon as I've had that thought am actively looking it feels so cheesy and stupid to suddenly to go, yeah, I want to be this kind of guy. I have no idea what part I want to be, I just want to be inspired by things.
Finding the magic in the words
If you read a lot of scripts within five pages you generally know exactly where it's going. Anyone who's writing a script is trying to get their movie made [so they] literally follow this set formula. I think that gifted writers, even if I hadn't seen their previous work, you can see in the writing, you understand story very well. I like different dialects and cadences in speech and stuff, just something that's fun to say. I remember with Good Time, as with a few other things I've done, you immediately want to read it out loud.
Pattinson secretly creeps Film Twitter to find new projects
I do nothing but watch stuff. I have a Twitter [account] that only follows film reviewers and film journalists and film festivals. I watch trailers all the time and I have lists and I send lists of names to agents, with hundreds and hundreds of lists.
How it felt to play Connie on set
Extreme tiredness I would say is one of the main things that was really helpful. [We were] working longer hours than I have on anything in my life, and I’d never seen such a kind of unified crew. You do feel that you're kind of in this real psychological zone and it definitely felt like we were making something that was real. I think you can do basically anything for six weeks.
Shooting anonymously in New York City
What I really loved about Heaven Knows What was the kind of seamlessness where the movie bled into real life. My experience of shooting in New York years ago, it was like this is literally going to be physically impossible, because if there's a bunch of crowd and they're all looking at one thing, and then there's a film camera and paparazzi, every single person on the street is going to be looking at that. One of the most pleasurable surprises that came out of it was that it was never a problem, the entire time. I've never seen a less conspicuous crew. People literally had no idea we were shooting at all, it's just like someone bought a camera at the corner store and was standing on the side of the street.
Getting Connie’s voice right
With the accent, [the Safdies are] not faking being from New York, it's written in a very New York cadence. I like the specificity of saying it's not just a New Yok movie, it's from Queens. It doesn't literally make any difference to me because I don't know anything about Queens, but the fact that I could feel that it didn't feel like someone just writing a general New York character, it's a local New York character and I think that always appealed to me. Finding something which is colloquial feels it's got more subtext to it.
On working with locals that provided colour
[There were a] number of people who told us crazy stories. Good Time is a story about this guy who went to prison and he robs a bank, and [people] were like oh, I know this guy [who did that], my dad or whatever. It's the most fun thing about preparing for a movie - you ask something and people just tell you these secrets. Guys were literally saying [that] cars they had outside [their house], well, they're all stolen. I've literally just met them five minutes ago! It was incredible, but I like that kind reality.