For their new movie, director brothers Ben and Joshua Safdie wanted to make a genre film with a star, and Robert Pattinson of “Twilight” fame wanted to “disappear” into a meaty role.
They found each other, and the modern crime classic “Good Time” was born.
“We wanted to do a movie like something from a crime blotter or a tabloid, these weird-but-true things,” says Joshua Safdie. “You realize that people are so inventive and they get involved in such crazy, wormhole narratives.”
“Good Time” holds true to that ideal.
Pattinson plays Connie, a failed bank robber who spends a long night trying to avoid the police and raise bail money for his brother, Nick (played by Ben Safdie as a character with a cognitive disability).
The brothers — best known for 2014’s gritty indie “Heaven Knows What,” about a homeless street addict — were thinking along the lines of movies they grew up with, such as “48 Hrs.,” “After Hours,” “Midnight Run,” as well as “Straight Time,” about which Joshua says, “You’re just yelling at the screen, ‘Don’t do that!’”
Pattinson agreed to the role while he was in the jungles of Colombia, working on the grueling shoot for “The Lost City of Z.”
Nevertheless, he fully committed to becoming a resident of Queens, N.Y, and resisted using a voice coach.
“I don’t really know that much about New York or New York people,” says the London-born actor. “I just hung around with seven or eight people who had vaguely similar backgrounds to Connie, and then stayed in my basement just obsessively reading the script for weeks and weeks.”
“These were people with nuanced Queens accents, not the cartoon version,” adds Joshua.
To add to the drama, the brothers developed their own personal, intense style involving vivid colors, thrumming, atonal music and close-ups.
“It forces the audience to imagine the rest of the space, and it feels restrictive and it adds to the element of thrill,” explains Joshua.
“With these characters, you’re not given a ton of exposition, so you have to learn how they speak and how they tell lies, or how they feel,” adds Ben, “so if you’re close up on their face, the slightest twitch will come across.”
The close camerawork was provided by Sean Price Williams, a veteran of Albert Maysles documentaries. His work left quite an impression on Pattinson.
“He’s this big, big, big man,” the actor says. “You can just feel his presence, and the camera looks tiny. We’re in the car and trying to shoot close-ups and he’s so huge, so he has his feet on the ceiling. It’s incredible!”
IF YOU GO
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Ben Safdie, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi
Written by: Joshua Safdie, Ronald Bronstein
Directed by: Joshua Safdie, Ben Safdie
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes