In our cultural imagination, family is all smiles and laughter, Christmas mornings and vacations by the beach. We love our parents. We love our kids. Our sisters. Our brothers. Our blood.
But sometimes we don’t love them—not as we ought. And sometimes, we love them too much.
Nick Nikas loves his grandmother. She’s taking care of him, after all, serving as the mentally disturbed man’s guardian. But that didn’t stop her vacant-eyed grandson from breaking her arm in a moment of stress—a moment that led him to a psychiatrist’s office for some much-needed counseling.
Constantine Nikas—”Connie” for short—loves his brother, Nick. He loves Nick more than their grandma, he’s sure, and a lot more than some impersonal, meddling shrink. So he barges into Nick’s inaugural counseling session and escorts his brother away.
“Shame on you!” the psychiatrist shouts after them, enraged and impotent. Connie doesn’t stop, doesn’t look back. “It’s just you and me,” he tells Nick. “I’m your friend.” He knows what his brother needs: a place to be himself, a place where the two brothers can live together in peace. A place where, as Nick says, he can do “whatever I want whenever I want.”
But a place like that takes money. Connie and Nick don’t have it. Maybe they can get some.
Soon, they barge into a bank, their faces covered with thick masks. Connie wants $65,000, and he won’t leave ’til the cashier coughs it up. They take the money, take off their disguises in a back alley and climb into their (slightly tardy) getaway car. Connie and Nick might get their place after all.
Then a packet of dye, hidden in the bills, explodes. The car crashes. Pink seeps into everything. The two brothers make a run for it, but Nick smashes into a plate glass window, knocking himself unconscious as the police close in.
Connie runs away, but he leaves his heart behind. His brother may be in custody … for now. But prison’s no place for a guy like Nick—a man-child too headstrong and naive to navigate its chaotic waters.
Connie loves his brother. He’d do anything for him.
And he’s about to prove it.
Good Time is about good intentions gone wrong, a story in which would-be good deeds only add to the badness. But let’s also acknowledge that people here do mean well.
Connie shows genuine affection for his brother. Sure, most of the time that affection manifests itself in super-terrible ways that may actually hurt his brother. But the impulse is good. And eventually, Connie comes to understand that his own ideas of how to love his brother may be faulty.
But he’s not the only one trying to care for Nick. Nick’s injured grandma cares for the boy too, broken arm or not. It’s why she takes Nick to the psychiatrist in the first place. That doctor, too, seems to want to help.
Other people along the way try to do the right thing as well: When Connie knocks on the door of an old woman, for instance, asking to use her phone to call for help, she not only lets him use hers, but gives him a room for the night. (The fact that he’s lying to her about the phone and goes on to steal her car and seduce her 16-year-old granddaughter does not minimize her honest, godly, intentions.)
The older woman is indeed devout: Christian programming blares from the television set. And when she and Connie first meet, she offers a sincere “God bless you.” Connie picks up on her religiosity and exploits it for all it’s worth, parroting “God bless you” back to her and keeping in check—for the only time in the movie—his salty language.
Connie learns that his brother, who got into an altercation in prison, is being kept in a hospital, and we see a stained glass window in the hospital featuring a saint. Connie’s bail bondsman wears a yarmulke. Connie suggests to someone that he was a dog in a previous life. An amusement park haunted house features some vaguely occult-looking props.
As mentioned, an older woman allows Connie and a bandaged companion to stay overnight at her house, where she lives with her granddaughter, Crystal. Connie quickly tries to wriggle his way into Crystal’s affections: When he learns that she’s just 16, he tells her that she looks older. They watch television in the basement together and, when a news update pops up on screen about Connie’s bank robbery, Connie begins kissing the girl (to distract her)—eventually lifting her off her feet and carrying her to her bedroom. The camera shows the two kissing on Crystal’s bed. He’s on top of her, and her shirt’s partially pulled up—revealing her midriff and a sliver of bra—before they’re interrupted.
Ray, another character who falls in with Connie during a pretty crazy night of activity, recounts a story: In the story’s flashback, we see a couple in the background engaged in noisy, obvious sex. (Their pants are pulled down, though nothing but their sides are visible.)
An old amusement park features several sexually themed artifacts, including a glow-in-the-dark painted cutout depiction of a naked woman and some kitschy sculptures featuring female breasts.
Nick smashes through a window, and the impact lays him out. Police find him unconscious with his face cut up and a small pool of blood on the ground. Later, he gets into a fight with fellow prisoners. They whale on him and leave his face a bloody mess.
Ray has also had a terrible, painful experience (just prior to the film’s story) that’s left his face torn and bloodied. He tells Connie that he apparently jumped out of a speeding taxi, injuring his shoulder and tearing up his face. He wears various bandages around his face throughout the movie, often bloodstained, and he’s also wearing a neck brace when he first meets Connie.
A melee breaks out in a police department holding cell, with two people punching each other on the ground. Officers try to break it up by spraying mace on the combatants, leading to a great deal of discomfort for everyone inside. Connie pummels a security guard with his fists, creating a web of wounds on the poor man’s face. People get tackled and knocked down. Someone threatens to kills someone else. A pit bull barks ferociously at intruders and latches onto someone’s wrist. Another character falls from a great height and presumably dies.
Folks watch reality cop shows on television, and one features an altercation between police and an apparently suicidal woman. When the police pull her out of her vehicle, she’s somehow stabbed with something, and we see the bloody wound in her side. (We hear a police officer tell others not to remove whatever has pierced her, saying that she’ll be “fine”.) We hear about how Nick broke his grandma’s arm.
About 160 f-words and nearly 50 s-words, in addition to “a–,” “d–n,” “f-g” and “n-gger.” God’s name is misused seven times—six of those with “d–n”—and Jesus’ name is abused at least four times.
Ray is a low-level drug dealer, and he spends a good chunk of his time onscreen telling Connie about how he’s spent the 24 hours or so since he’s been out of prison. (Hint: It’s not good.)
His narrative is constantly interspersed with reminders of how “wasted” or stoned or drunk he was at the time—what he imagined he could or couldn’t do—and he brags to Connie that he’s likely made more money in a matter of days selling drugs than Connie’s made in his entire life. (In flashback, we see him conduct “business” in an arcade.)
But Ray may spend as much on mind-altering substances as he makes selling them. Whenever he’s in range of something he can drink or smoke or pop, he’ll do so. Ray and Connie squat in a posh apartment filled with what looks to be expensive liquor, and Ray makes a beeline for the bottles and begins to drink straight from them.
[Spoiler Warning] But Connie, in need of cash, isn’t above profiting from peddling drugs, either. Especially given that Ray and his buddies stashed a 16-ounce Sprite bottle full of LSD, along with a satchel of cash, in an old amusement park. When they can’t find the cash, Connie decides to try to turn the bottle of LSD for a quick profit. (But before they make off with it, Ray pours some LSD down the throat of an unconscious security guard—leading to a very bad trip when he comes to.)
Crystal smokes pot from something and offers Connie some. He doesn’t accept, telling her that it doesn’t affect him. She also tells him that her ex-boyfriend is a drug dealer. Her grandmother apparently takes drugs to help her sleep. Connie and Crystal give someone OxyContin to help a man in pain—drugs the man says don’t help at all.
Connie lies continually to try to “save” his brother. He lies to people to slither into their good graces. He lies to police officers to finagle information. He lies to pert near everyone, and he does with such oily ease that it’s incredibly creepy to watch.
He’s not the only one: This film is filled with bald-faced liars. Ray lies. Crystal lies. Corey, Connie’s girlfriend, lies. Indeed, the lies lie so thick on the ground that they become a veritable mountain of untruth: Connie lying to Corey to get Corey to pay for Nick’s bail money, Corey lying to her mother to use her credit card for said bail, etc.
Many of the characters here try to do the right thing, but their good intentions are undercut and exploited by less-savory individuals. In some ways, Good Time is a study in gullibility, where the ancillary characters floating around Connie, Corey and Ray must decide when to trust (never) and when to call the cops (immediately). It could be argued that the movie discourages us from trusting, or taking risks for, anyone.
The pink dye that explodes in the car makes Nick want to throw up. He doesn’t, but we hear him retch. And when he heads to a bathroom, he leans over a toilet and washes his face with the toilet water. The dye also gets all over the money, of course, making it unusable. Nick’s bail bondsman will only accept some of the bills—but really, it seems like an ethical bondsman would’ve turned down all of them once he saw that they were obviously part of a bank robbery.
The greatest virtue is love, Paul told us. But sometimes, we can love in the wrong way.
Good Time is about love that not only goes off the tracks, but falls headlong into a gorge. You could argue that practically every decision that Connie makes is because he loves his brother—and every decision is exactly the wrong one.
Connie’s not the only one who makes terrible decisions based on love, or what folks suspect might be love. Nick seems to reject the rest of his family in favor of his doting brother. Corey, Connie’s troubled girlfriend, is willing to overlook a great deal of stuff to keep hold of her man. Crystal—perhaps a bit infatuated with Connie—makes some truly terrible decisions. Even Crystal’s grandmother, motivated by the desire to show love and mercy on someone else just as she says Jesus showed her, opens her home to someone who takes that mercy and abuses it something awful.
These terrible decisions lead, more often than not, to terrible content. Good Time is filled with sex, violence, drug use and language, making the movie’s title an obscenely ironic statement (at least for discerning viewers who pay attention to such things).
But for all its foul content, Good Time makes for an effective cautionary tale. This is no lighthearted caper, no preening adulation of bad behavior. The characters here—especially Robert Pattinson’s supremely effective Connie—are seriously messed up, and we don’t envy any of them. Every bad decision builds on the last, as bad decisions often do. This isn’t a rollicking party: It’s a tragedy in freefall. One that’s bound to end on the rocky ground.
Unless someone comes to an almost biblical conclusion—that the only way to avoid disaster is to, paradoxically, stand up and face what’s coming. To confess. To repent. To sacrifice yourself for the sake of others.
The movie gets there—eventually. Alas, to come to this sort of conclusion does not make for a good time, nor does it make for a good movie. But it does offer, at least, a decent caveat.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.