The cinematic fixation with paranormal romance that blossomed uncontrollably in the late 2000s can be traced back to the iconic literary masterpiece that started it all: “Twilight.” When Stephanie Meyer’s best-selling young adult novel was adapted into a film saga, teenage hearts across the country were revived through Robert Pattinson’s (“Remember Me”) portrayal of Edward Cullen — the flawless, brooding vampire and love interest of the protagonist, played by Kristen Stewart (“Snow White and the Huntsman”). “Twilight” and its sequels dominated teenage culture, but the film had the apparent side-effect of trapping Stewart and Pattinson within their roles of Bella and Edward, a common repercussion for young actors who personify a teenage fandom. After “Twilight,” Pattinson struggled to be identified as a legitimate actor, not just ‘the hot vampire from “Twilight.”’ In Pattinson’s audition for the film “Good Time,” he altered his accent to match that of the character, attempting to further distance himself from his previous role and obtain the part on merit. Pattinson’s lead role in the film gifts him with a shot at validating his acting potential to audiences and the film community as a whole.
The best way to describe “Good Time” is perhaps as an urban version of “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” but darker. Much, much darker. Foreshadowing the jerky, spur-into-action style that persists throughout the remainder of the film, one of the first sequences involves a robbery committed by two brothers, Connie, the instigator of the crime, and Nick, who lies somewhere on the autism spectrum and is not fully aware of the dangerous situation he is involved in. Ultimately ending up in a high-speed chase with the police, Nick is caught and sent to prison. Connie manages to evade the cops, but motivated by his rightful guilt and love for his brother, he embarks on a mission through the maze that is the dark, neon-lit New York City streets to obtain bail money for Nick, spinning a web of messes and destruction behind him.
“Good Time” is Pattinson’s opportunity to break the mold that he has been cast within — and break the mold he does. In fact, he shatters it. After watching this film, it is impossible for audiences to merely pass Pattinson off as ‘that vampire guy’ any longer. Practically the anti-“Twilight” in terms of acting, Pattinson’s expression of Connie as a desperate, manipulative and exploitative young man gives viewers a character they can chew on. Connie is someone that audiences are unclear whether or not to root for. Unsettled by Connie’s slimy and sketchy actions and unsavory usage of the individuals he encounters, viewers may admire the lengths he is willing to go to free his brother, that is, until they remember that his brother’s misfortune is entirely Connie’s fault. Pattinson provides movie-goers a character that gives us whiplash. We scorn at his impulsivity and shoddy attempts to repair the damage he causes over the course of his travels, yet we also cross our fingers, hoping that he makes it out unscathed in the end.
It is somewhat understandable why this film did not receive an Oscar or Golden Globe best picture nomination. Viewers tend to gravitate toward films with characters who grow on screen, especially evident through this year’s batch of nominations, including coming-of-age films “Lady Bird” and “Call Me by Your Name.” However, the failure to acknowledge Pattinson for his performance here is without a doubt an oversight. The dimension that Pattinson generates through his embodiment of Connie is fantastic. The idea of a ‘repulsive hero’ sounds paradoxical, but that is exactly what Pattinson offers the audience in “Good Time” — a moral-free, low-life swindler that, despite his personality flaws, is still capable of feeling a pure, untainted love for another human being.
There is absolutely nothing feel-good about this film, and it is in no way redemptive. However, though it leaves viewers with knots in their stomachs, it convinces them that Robert Pattinson can no longer be identified solely as another insignificant actor within the paranormal genre. Pattinson proves his acting prowess by shedding his longtime branding as ‘Edward’ and coming into his own, and it is a true pity that he did not receive the credit he deserved.