The Arts

Dy-no-mite!: RPatz is explosive in Good Time

It took a few years, but once the silly fanboy snickering subsided, Kristen Stewart was able to move on from the Twilight series and reclaim her title as an accomplished actress with such credits as Camp X-Ray, Personal Shopper and particularly Clouds of Sils Maria (for which she became the first American actress to ever win France’s Oscar equivalent, the Cesar Award). While it’s unclear whether Taylor Lautner will enjoy a similar renaissance — his recent efforts have consisted of dopey thrillers and Adam Sandler stink bombs — Stewart’s other Twilight stud, Robert Pattinson, appears to be on the right path with his selection of interesting roles in various indie flicks.

Pattinson’s latest effort in this vein is Good Time, a striking drama directed by sibling filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie. With Josh co-scripting with Ronald Bronstein and Benny co-starring with Pattinson, the brothers certainly have their DNA all over this project, and while their previous pictures are known only to the most dedicated cineastes, this one should allow them more exposure as they move forward.

Good Time finds RPatz and BSaf respectively starring as Connie Nikas and his younger brother Nick. Connie is a small-time hustler and crook while Nick is mentally impaired, and while Connie loves his bro, he doesn’t always do what’s best for him. Case in point: Connie elects to rob a bank and decides that his slow-witted sibling would make an excellent accomplice. Instead, Nick ends up getting arrested following the heist, and Connie must figure out a way to spring him from jail.

What follows is one of those all-night-long Odysseys that’s taxing for the characters but weirdly fascinating for the viewer (think Martin Scorsese’s After Hours or even Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle). Connie Nikas isn’t likable in the least, but there is a sliver of redemption in his single-minded devotion to his brother. Yet what makes Connie such a compelling character is that he’s completely delusional about his own abilities and intelligence. Here’s a man who thinks he’s smart, but situation after situation proves that he’s anything but. This is amusing enough, but then the second half introduces a new character in the form of Ray (Buddy Duress), another petty criminal. If anything, Ray is even thicker than Connie, and their scenes together are among the movie’s best. It’s like Dumb and Dumber — only better and better.

Sparse in its visual style yet weighty with its themes, In This Corner of the World is a Japanese animated feature that largely concerns itself with the bombing of Hiroshima toward the end of World War II. Like many other anime features, this one isn’t exactly for the kids, with a PG-13 rating to allow parents to debate whether it’s a proper viewing option for their offspring. Then again, it can’t be any more detrimental to young minds than something like The Emoji Movie, in which characters named Poop and Poop Jr. run around chanting, “We’re number two!”

There is a split-second shot of an anthropomorphic alligator, but that’s about it for flights of fancy in In This Corner of the World. The story centers on Suzu (voiced by Rena Nounen), an artist and self-described daydreamer who, at the age of 18, marries a young man named Shusaku (Yoshimasa Hosoya) and moves from her home in Hiroshima to his family’s residence in nearby Kure. She more than pulls her weight with the other members of the household, and she particularly bonds with her niece Harumi (Natsuki Inaba). But the war, which initially seems so far away, soon takes its toll in the form of limited food rations and strafing American airplanes. All the while dates occasionally pop up on the screen to show that we’re inexorably moving closer and closer to August 6, 1945.

Although there are a few moments of Suzu admiring her nation’s weapons of mass destruction (particularly a pair of imposing battleships), In this Corner of the World keeps nationalism on the back burner, preferring instead to examine the effects of war on ordinary citizens. If there are any politics in the picture, it’s of the personal sort, with Suzu doing her best to be accepted by her new husband and the rest of his family. Indeed, the first portion of the film, focusing more on domestic issues, doesn’t completely hint at the grimness that will take over during the second half. But it’s nevertheless a constant in the story, hiding in the margins before making its presence known as strikingly as a mushroom cloud in the sky.

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