I thought I was walking into a post-Twilight trainwreck. Instead I think I just saw the next Trainspotting.

Genre: Thriller
Premise: When his brother is thrown in jail after a bank robbery gone bad, a low-life street thug will do anything to bail him out by the end of the night.
About: Good Time is the second feature from the Safdie Brothers (Ben and Josh), who call Good Time their “first real movie.” Robert Pattinson, who stars in the film, reached out to the brothers after seeing a still image from their first project and basically begged them to be in their next movie. The brothers reluctantly cast him, unsure if he could handle the role. The film premiered at the Cannes film festival, where it received a 6 minute standing ovation.
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie
Details: 100 minutes

pattinson-good-time

What if I told you that I saw the next Trainspotting?

Would you believe me?

Because I think I just did.

Last week, I was dragged to an early screening of Good Time. I say dragged because the only reason I went was because a friend of mine is a huge Robert Pattinson fan and Pattinson is in the movie. “A Robert Pattinson indie movie?” I said. “Seriously? That’s like, guaranteed bad.”

I know what you’re going to say. He was in Rover and Cosmoplis and Lost City of Z and blah blah blah. But does anybody actually remember those movies outside of festival going cinephiles who check movie websites 12 times a day?

Adding to the potential suckage factor was that I’d never heard of the directors before. That’s typically a bad sign. I was preparing for your average 2 hour experimental indie flick with no story and less direction, a student film on crack.

What I got instead was… well… something wonderful.

Good Time follows Connie (Pattinson), a low-life piece of shit who keeps his older girlfriend around specifically to squeeze money out of her whenever he needs to get out of trouble or score his next high. The only good thing Connie does is take care of his mentally challenged older brother, Nick.

At the beginning of the movie, Connie rips Nick out of a center for handicapped people, furious that these assholes keep trying to institutionalize him. Ironically, Connie then preps Nick to rob a bank with him (was he really worse off at that center)? Everything goes smoothly until the dye pack explodes on the money, resulting in a dash for freedom. But the cops end up catching Nick.

Connie then must find 10 grand to bail his brother out of jail, who will be helpless otherwise. He tries to get his girlfriend to pay up but her credit card is declined. In a stroke of good luck, Nick is beaten up in jail, and transferred to the local hospital. Connie then breaks into the hospital and rescues him.

I won’t tell you what happens next but I will say that everything goes to shit and that the first half of the movie, which was relentlessly paced, is nothing compared to the second half, where things truly get fucked up. Connie will go to the limit to save his brother, and that means nobody will get in his way.

Screen Shot 2017-08-07 at 8.37.40 AM

Here’s the thing that surprised me most about this screenplay: URGENCY.

Every damn indie film I watch is devoid of urgency. They’re all wrapped in “Feelings” and “Serious” molasses, strolling down slow-as-shit lane, trying to make points about the world or the human condition or whatever. And then something like Good Time comes along and shows you that you can do all that but STILL ENTERTAIN AUDIENCES.

I think that’s why Trainspotting stood out so much when it debuted. When you write something with this kind of urgency, it’s impossible not to take notice. These movies will always stand out.

But it wasn’t just the pace that impressed me. Let’s look at one of the classic screenwriting dilemmas, which Good Time faces in spades: A terribly unlikable main character.

I mean, this guy is just a bad dude on every level. There’s a scene early on where Connie shows up at his older girlfriend’s house (played awesomely by Jennifer Jason Leigh) and as soon as the girlfriend’s mom sees him she starts screaming for her to close the door. She knows what Connie means. Connie means, “I’m here to take more of your money.”

He wrestles his girlfriend away and, on the way to the police station, slowly and heartlessly manipulates her. It’s truly awful behavior.

So why do we still root for someone like Connie? Do you want to take a guess? C’mon. Those of you who have been reading this site should know. I’ll give you a minute to ruminate.

Because Connie loves his mentally challenged brother more than anything. If you want to make a bad protagonist likable, that’s all you have to do. No, you don’t have to write in a retarded family member. But place a family member in some sort of a weakened state (someone’s trying to take advantage of them), have your protagonist fight to the death for that character, and we’ll like him. We’ll root for him NO MATTER WHAT.

But the screenwriting good times didn’t stop there. Whenever you have a full-on super-paced thriller script, where you’re racing from start to finish, there will always be one section, near the midpoint, where you stop, rest, and recuperate. This section always lasts about 10-15 minutes.

I can tell if a writer knows what he’s doing by how he approaches this section. Because 9 times out of 10, this section will consist of one character telling another character some sad backstory, which is the most boring choice you can possibly make.

If you can somehow make this section unexpected and interesting, I know you’re a badass screenwriter. Because it’s hard to make the one slow section in your script stand out from the rest of it.

In Good Time, this section has Connie getting stuck in some Jamaican woman’s home (he’s hiding from the cops). Connie starts hanging out with this woman’s underage granddaughter. The two have this awkward energy and you just know things are going to get weird. I won’t go into detail about what happens. But we’ll just say that when they’re watching TV and Connie’s face comes up on the local news, Connie does something nontraditional to get the girl to overlook that a criminal is in her house.

And I haven’t even gotten into the score, which is freaking amazing. It’s this constant pulse-pounding beat accompanied by these blaring eighties synth-chords that often become the focus of the scene. I haven’t experienced a soundtrack that’s added this level of atmosphere to a movie since Blade Runner.

I’d say that film was a clear influence to the Safdie’s, along with Drive and Trainspotting.

After the film, there was a question and answer session with the directors and Pattinson. These things are always a little awkward, and this one was no exception. Pattinson told a story about how he reached out to the directors after seeing the poster for their first movie and told them he wanted to work with them. The brothers openly discussed (right in front of Pattinson) that they had no intention of e-mailing him back because he wasn’t a good enough actor for the kind of movie they wanted to make.

But they ended up taking a chance on him and it’s looking like a good one for everybody involved. This is easily Pattinson’s best performance and this is the kind of movie that whether you like it or hate it, you will never forget it. It’s a neon-infused nightmare thriller that introduces the world to two talented directors who will be around for a long time.

[ ] What the hell did I just watch?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the price of admission
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: In a thriller, your midpoint will almost always consist of your characters resting and recuperating for 10-15 minutes. This section is needed to allow the audience to take a breath and get ready for the second half of the film. However, don’t slack in this section. Try to do something interesting with it. Throw a few unexpected choices in there. And definitely don’t have your protagonist tell some other character about a story from their past. EVERYBODY does that. Instead, tell us about your character THROUGH THEIR ACTIONS AND CHOICES RIGHT NOW, IN THIS SCENE.

  • Erica

    Bam! About time, I was starting to get a little worried.

    • PQOTD

      May the Force of the First be with you!

      • Stephjones

        go to bed

    • Scott Crawford

      Is this the top secret one you showed me? Do you have an outline? Have you solved all your problems? Or are you going to use the Force (not always a bad idea)?

      • Erica

        This is the top secret one. I believe I have solved all my problems (so far) and I’m super pumped about it. As for an outline, I have the story in point form notes along with post it notes and pages of thoughts etc. I finally came up with the ending as well. Earlier I had a basic ending but now I know how it will end.

        There is also elements of the force when writing, I don’t always know every little details, I like to figure out some of those along the way.

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the review, Carson.

    It’s funny … I just watched this trailer last night. The pic seems a bit too
    intense for my taste.

    • brenkilco

      First movie use I believe of the fabled Bradbury building which has been a location for a lot of notable movie and TV since.

      And a guy solving his own murder has got to be the noiriest premise of all time. The plot of DOA however is a little vague. In fact from viewing to viewing I keep forgetting why they poisoned the poor guy.

  • brenkilco

    Know that this is generating a lot of buzz. Good to know it’s earned.

    In a thriller, your midpoint will almost always consist of your characters resting and recuperating for 10-15 minutes.

    I know most movies have a midpoint shift but a fifteen minute midpoint sag? In a thriller? Neither agreeing nor disagreeing at the moment. But I could use some examples. None is leaping to mind.

    • BMCHB

      Can only quickly think of T2 when they head to Sarah’s ex’s place in the desert – probably about 8 – 12 minutes from memory…

      • brenkilco

        Yes, it fits T2 though I don’t recall the original slowing down at all, except for the brief time it took for Sarah to get pregnant. And I think that scene occurred closer to the er climax.

    • carsonreeves1

      Die Hard is another one – the section where he sits down and talks to the cop. This is, actually, what started the whole thing I rail against in the review – the “tell us an important moment from your past” monologue.

      • brenkilco

        That awful scene seems to be there just because Willis wanted a chance to emote. Could have been cut out without anybody noticing. And should have been.

        • Scott Crawford

          I think you’re talking about two different scenes, both of which happen in act three, much later than you think. One is Al Powell explaining how he once shot a kid, the other is Willis telling Powell to tell Holly that she is the best thing that ever happened to a bum like him.

          Both are superb scenes.

          • brenkilco

            Shoehorned in with a sledgehammer IMHO. But reasonable minds can disagree.

          • Scott Crawford

            Ah, schucks, can we? Yeah, maybe my brain thinks it was shoehorned in but it gets me in the gut every time and that’s all that matters.

      • Adam McCulloch

        It’s perfectly timed at seven minutes to allow for standing in the line to get popcorn without missing anything.

    • Scott Crawford

      Narrow Margin… act one, Hackman rescues Archer from assassins. Act two (a), Hackman and Archer board train to airport. Midpoint, train stops at station and Hackman makes call from payphone, arranges for coos to meet them at next stop. Up until this point, the two heroes haven’t exchanged more than a few words, they haven’t had a chance. Then, after the midpoint (before they reach the next stop), while Hackman thinks they are safe in their cabin, they talk – not about events from the past but the future, doing the right thing, that Archer has a son. Then things speed up again.

      These scenes could occur at other points; it’s really a question of us there a moment when the characters are waiting or travelling and they don’t have to make any news actions or decisions. In North by Northwest, also on a train, this point is before the midpoint.

      • brenkilco

        There’s no equivalent scene in the original. No time. It only runs a little over an hour. And even makes room for a twist the remake lacks.

        I’m not sure the train sequence in NBNW, which I thought of too, fits. It’s not near the midpoint. And it’s not really a regrouping scene. It’s the intro of the love interest. The midpoint shift seems to me Grant’s realization that Eva Marie Saint is in cahoots with the villain. And the only pause in the action is a bit later when the professor explains to him what is going on and that Saint is actually working for the government. And so anxious was Hitchcock not to slow things up that he had the explanation pantomimed over the roar of a plane engine so that the unheard exposition could be delivered in a fraction of the time it would really have taken. No unnecessary sags for the master.

      • Pugsley

        In DIEHARD, how long is McClane’s convo with Powell? Surely not 15 mins. I think it’s 7 mins, tops.

        • Scott Crawford

          Less than a minute.

  • scriptfeels

    Looking forward to watching goodtime.

  • OCattorney

    when Pattison was cast in twilight, a girl told me, “He’s not hot enough.”

    OK, I’m still thinking about Concepts that would be considered ground-breaking and original.

    I see a lot of ideas that came from a re-cycle bin.

    What does ground-breaking mean? I wanted to ask that in previous entry.

    In today’s market, we have a lot of films that were ground-breaking when they were made.

    If Passengers was on the Hit List in 2007 and came out in 2017.. give me a definition for “ground-breaking” that will be good for a movie opening ten years from now.

    World war II… no. Prejudice… no. What kind of turmoil is our society going through today that will erupt in the coming decade? – bill hays

    • brenkilco

      A global religious war surreptitiously fomented by competing AI super computers. Starring a lot of Chinese and Indian actors.

  • Randy Williams

    Did anyone in the question and answer ask about whether the dog story Pattison told and then recounted was true? Just asking for my female dog who has a crush on him.

    • carsonreeves1

      lol

    • Stephjones

      Funny, Randy.

  • DaChoppa

    I revisited Trainspotting recently — it’s a bunch of vignettes, some really harrowing, some amazing, memorial scenes, yet it doesn’t feel structured or cohesive. Things just happen, perhaps the fractured nature of the film alludes to the life of a heroin addict? I never quite got it.

    • Scott Crawford

      There IS a story, by the end, but -yeah! – I think that’s the book, a series of vinegrettes, one of which I remember was just the Mike Hunt joke from Porkies in a Scottish accent. Weird.

    • Miriam

      What did you think about the trainspotting sequel?

  • klmn

    Aha, Carson. You crossed us up.

    We were expecting you to review the Emoji Movie.

  • ripleyy

    OT: I’m looking for: Tomb Raider by Geneva Robertson-Dworet. I heard it’s not very good, but the source of that information is singular. If it’s out there, I want my hands on it. Scott?

    OT: The Sequel. I’ve finally decided to send a script into AO. I’ll be pestering Carson for weeks until he finally gives in and posts it – but look out for it, folks. It’ll be coming. Soon.

    Anyway, I’ve heard a lot of good things about Good Time, but to me I can’t quite figure out the tone. A part of my brain thinks its a comedy (where that came from I have no idea) and the other part hasn’t been given enough to warrant me to spending a few bucks on it. Still, any good buzz is buzz I’ll be checking out sometime between now and whenever it comes out.

    Robert Patterson, however, is a really great actor who has been hampered by poor roles. I still think his finest role to date is Cosmopolis. I never expected in a hundred years to like that film but I did.

    • klmn

      What’s the logline of your script? A little advance publicity never hurt.

      • ripleyy

        Right. Some publicity doesn’t help :)

        Title: Flyuxaphine
        Genre: Thriller
        Logline:
        After a malfunction releases a gas that’s turned everybody insane, a mechanic with a troubled past fights his way through a Terraforming facility with the help of his girlfriend via headset.

        It won a spot in the Top 25 at the SS250 last year, but recently I dusted it off, worked a little harder on it and I feel like it’s about time I submit something. I’ve always said I would submit a script I am most pleased (and confident) with, and this is it.

        • Stephjones

          I will definitely check it out if it’s chosen. Will be on the lookout.

    • Scott Crawford

      I don’t think I do have that one, no. I don’t think AV is the right casting and I fear it’s being done one the cheap (no huge 007 Stage sets this time).

      • ripleyy

        The still they posted of her hanging from a rock looked super fake and there was no strain in her arms at all. Obviously tied to a wire. The source was somebody who asked Rhianna Pratchett (the writer of the video game reboot) if she had read it, which she hadn’t, and the person said the script wasn’t very good. Obviously that would be bad, but personally I’m itching for another adventure film and I hope it satisfies it.

        • Scott Crawford

          Sometimes a redux reboot does wonders, like Pete Travis and Alex Garland’s Dredd, but I think the world of Lara Croft is less deep.

          • ripleyy

            Exactly. I’ll be reserving my judgement until I see footage, but I hope adventure films are revived; we’ve got Uncharted and Tomb Raider, and those new Indiana Jones films coming soon.

    • hickeyyy

      Good to hear, Ripley! I’ve got something very close to ready that I’ll be submitting as well. We may end up going to battle. Best of luck to the both of us.

      I agree with Pattinson. I think he gets a bad rap specifically for being in Twilight, but I’ve found him to be competent whenever I’ve seen him, even if unspectacular.

      • ripleyy

        Good luck! I’ve always said I would do it, but whenever I felt like I was in the right place. Patience usually pays off, so hopefully when it comes time it is posted, something good comes of it. :)

    • Stephjones

      Attach some pictures of a cat when you submit, or lay claim to some mad skillz at something insane and submit badly photo-shopped evidence to support it.

  • klmn

    Carson, you compared it to Trainspotting. I consider T to be a black comedy, but you categorize GT as a thriller.

    What’s the comparison with Trainspotting, other than that you like both films?

  • Angry Cyborg

    OT: Interesting article that references Scriptshadow numerous times (for the reviews).
    Spec Scripts That Sold for Millions, but Were Never Made https://screencraft.org/2017/07/30/spec-scripts-that-sold-for-millions-but-were-never-made/

    Not sure if there’s anything to actually learn, except take the money and run(?) and Joe Eszterhas is RICH AF b/c of all of his (non-produced) spec sales = $26 million, seriously?

  • Brainiac138

    I think Carson needs to see more indies. They are pretty much all going straight genre now-a-days with the exception of the foreign market.

  • Loetzen

    The only good thing Connie does is take care of his mentally challenged older brother, Nick.
    At the beginning of the movie, Connie rips Nick out of a center for
    handicapped people, furious that these assholes keep trying to
    institutionalize him. Ironically, Connie then preps Nick to rob a bank
    with him (was he really worse off at that center)?

    Echoes of Rain Man?