Saturday, August 12, 2017

Down Time

I just saw Good Time, the well-reviewed action film starring Robert Pattinson.  I mention I saw it, because after reading April Wolfe's review in the LA Weekly, I'm not sure we saw the same thing.

She talks about how many gritty New York films have white males as their leads.  Also, "like so many other films of its ilk, revels in its ugly male characters." Okay, so what?

Then she notes the Safdie brothers, who made the film,

seem to have no awareness of how repulsive they’ve made their lead. We’re supposed to laugh when 30-something Connie kisses 15-year-old Crystal and tries to fuck her just to distract her from his mug shot on the TV — do I have to remind people that statutory rape is rape? That Crystal happens to be black and that the filmmakers chose to over-sexualize her was not lost on me [so Wolfe recognized Crystal was black--nothing get's past her]. We’re also supposed to laugh when Connie beats the shit out of a security guard (Barkhad Abdi), who is also black, before Connie’s partner in crime for the night (Buddy Duress) dumps a pop bottle of LSD in his mouth. Every punch and every dude yelling nonsensically just to be loud and disorienting tried my patience.

Connie is the most fascinating figure in the film, though that's almost be default. It's his story, and, while trying to help his mentally challenged brother, he comes up with one stratagem after another.  Movies generally make the protagonist (played by the best-looking person, usually) the most magnetic character.

But Connie as sympathetic?  I didn't quite see that. For all his canniness, he's hot-headed and readily willing to turn on anyone.  His criminal plans are what cause he and his brother's problems in the first place. We recognize, as he tries to figure his way out of a spot (through criminal means, of course), that while it may make for an absorbing story, it also leaves behind a path of destruction.  Even if we root for him to get away with it, he's not a conventionally sympathetic character.

You know who's sympathetic?  The black characters.  We feel bad for Crystal and hope she isn't too poorly treated by Connie.  And I didn't hear anyone laugh at the brutal beating the black security guard received.  In fact, that might have been the turning point in the audience's sympathy for Connie.

You know who wasn't sympathetic?  The white guy drug dealer.  You don't mind when Connie screws with him since he's such a jerk.

Wolfe doesn't have to like the film, but she might have tried to take it on its own terms.

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