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Emmys 2017
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Cannes

Robert Pattinson gives 'career-best' performance in Cannes thriller Good Time

Critics call the film a career reinvention for the Twilight star, who could score Cannes’ Best Actor prize

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Robert Pattinson might have found the role that finally will legitimize his post-Twilight career as a prestige actor — according to movie critics at the 2017 Cannes Film Festival, that is.

The actor has come a long way from his days wooing Kristen Stewart as Edward Cullen, the smooth-and-brooding vampire love interest across five installments of the popular YA franchise, and with the debut of the Safdie brothers’ latest project in competition on the Croisette, Pattinson is entering new territory in what critics are calling a “career-best performance” for the 31-year-old London native.

“Pattinson provides the propulsive energy that makes the whole apparatus churn. Pushing beyond the muted roles for which he’s best known, the actor transforms into a vain, reckless character driven against impossible odds,” IndieWire‘s Eric Kohn raves in his A- grade review. “The whole movie zips forward at an unnerving speed, and Pattinson’s tasked with making much of it believable.”

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Penned by co-director Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein, Good Time charts the course of two brothers, Connie (Pattinson) and the mentally impaired Nick (co-director Ben Safdie, over a single night, following along as they plot to rob a bank — a scheme which ultimately leads to the latter’s incarceration while the former embarks on a dangerous quest to free him.

“Up to point, Good Time suggests Of Mice and Men by way of Dog Day Afternoon, but that’s only the prologue to the loopy subterranean odyssey around the corner,” Kohn continues. “The rambunctious plot doesn’t stop twisting, veering from misanthropy to slow-burn suspense and eventually absurdist comedy, as if following the uneven contours of its troubled characters’ minds. Pattinson, his stern expression belying Connie’s mounting anxiety about his brother’s fate, channels the hopeless determination that keeps him going.”

While Pattinson has distanced himself from the movie series that catapulted him to superstardom in recent years, taking well-received roles in specialty pictures like David Michôd’s The Rover opposite Guy Pearce, James Gray’s The Lost City of Z, and a pair of David Cronenberg stunners (Cosmopolis and Maps to the Stars), Vanity Fair‘s Richard Lawson compares his current career trajectory to that of his Twilight costar’s, noting Stewart’s similar reinvention as a critical darling in past Cannes favorites like Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria and Personal Shopper.

Dominique Charriau/Wireimage

“Pattinson pulls a Kristen Stewart in [this] Cannes hit,” his headline reads. His review, which praises Pattinson but indicates the film at large misses the mark, continues: “Pattinson is at bat again, and he appears to have connected with the ball… It’s a dream kind of role for an actor looking to be taken seriously — all muted and serious and streetwise—and Pattinson seizes the opportunity with understated confidence. It’s not a showy performance… Good Time certainly builds on [his] promise, and is an example for other young (or not!) actors out there looking to do a career renovation that the best path forward is oftentimes smaller, riskier films done with the right auteurs.”

The Wrap‘s Sam Fragoso even compares Pattinson’s work to one of Robert De Niro’s best performances, writing: “Of all the moving pieces in Good Time, Pattinson appears, on paper, as the biggest question mark. To put it mildly: his work in front of the camera has been inconsistent. Sometimes it appears he wants to perform, other times his inertness takes hold. If he contains some mystical on-off switch, the Safdie brothers have figured out how to keep the light burning. Pattinson delivers a manic, adrenalized performance in the vein of Robert DeNiro in Mean Streets, a film to which Good Time often pays homage.”

The Safdies’ directorial hand is drawing particularly strong notices at Cannes as well, nearly three years after they launched the acclaimed drug drama Heaven Knows What on the festival circuit in 2014.

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

“If the Safdie Brothers’ last feature, Heaven Knows What, evoked The Panic in Needle Park with its cinema verite observation of the New York City heroin subculture, their impressive follow-up, Good Time, sees them continuing to draw inspiration from the gritty American movies of the 1970s, albeit with their own distinctive street edge,” David Rooney observes for The Hollywood Reporter, additionally calling the film an “upgrade” to the current Cannes competition. “Led by Robert Pattinson giving arguably his most commanding performance to date as a desperate bank robber cut from the same cloth as Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon, this is a richly textured genre piece that packs a visceral charge in its restless widescreen visuals and adrenalizing music, which recalls the great mood-shaping movie scores of Tangerine Dream.”

Still, Pattinson’s reception is the key takeaway, here, indicating he could be a strong contender for the festival’s Best Actor prize, with Variety‘s Ramin Setoodeh indicating the race might come down to Pattinson and Farrell, who has two films in competition with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled — both of which earned solid reviews from critics, though Louis Garrel (Redoubtable) and Adam Sandler (The Meyerowitz Stories [New and Redacted]) could surprise.

A24 currently has Good Time, which also stars Barkhad Abdi and Jennifer Jason Leigh, slated for an Aug. 11 theatrical release in the U.S. Read on for more critical reviews of the film out of the Cannes Film Festival.

Eric Kohn (IndieWire)
“… there’s simply no other modern American filmmaker capable of generating comedy and deep-seated suspense at the same time. Good Time combines anarchic sensibilities with an exacting style, its loopy plot starting in dark places and heads into willfully absurd directions before doubling back to a wakeup call. The essence of this unique directing duo’s appeal is they pin down what it feels like when crazy escapades die down and life gets real.”

Richard Lawson (Vanity Fair)
“There’s much to admire about Good Time (though I’m still not sure what the title means), but that’s really all there is. It’s respectable, but it doesn’t grip. The film is a nice resume line for all involved, a technical feat that announces the arrival of talents both new and newly recontextualized. If only all that solid stuff had a stronger gravity to it, an undertow that drew us from our assessing distance and into the picture. Without that pull, the film races past and then is gone, a whizzing show of light and grit that’s only just good enough.”

Sam Fragoso (The Wrap)
“This layered, detailed approach translates to all facets of Good Time. It’s a movie born into existence through true collaboration. It’s clear the Safdie brothers are beyond substantive storytellers; they’re astute delegators. The cinematography of Sean Price Williams (a crown jewel within the NYC indie filmmaking scene) is on full display. He captures the nightmarish eeriness of what the Safdies call ‘the tragic borough.’ With the help of locations manager Samson Jacobson (a native who scouted locations for Inside Llewyn Davis), Queens is presented as the true underbelly of New York, replete with underdogs, oddballs, hustlers and blue-collar denizens.”

David Rooney (The Hollywood Reporter)
“If the Safdie Brothers’ last feature, Heaven Knows What, evoked The Panic in Needle Park with its cinema verite observation of the New York City heroin subculture, their impressive follow-up, Good Time, sees them continuing to draw inspiration from the gritty American movies of the 1970s, albeit with their own distinctive street edge. Led by Robert Pattinson giving arguably his most commanding performance to date as a desperate bank robber cut from the same cloth as Al Pacino’s Sonny Wortzik in Dog Day Afternoon, this is a richly textured genre piece that packs a visceral charge in its restless widescreen visuals and adrenalizing music, which recalls the great mood-shaping movie scores of Tangerine Dream.”

Guy Lodge (Variety)
“Robert Pattinson hits a career high in Benny and Josh Safdie’s nervy, vivid heist thriller, which merges messy humanity with tight genre mechanics… A career-peak performance from Robert Pattinson, as a scuzzy Queens bank robber on a grimly spiraling mission to break his mentally handicapped brother out of jail, will attract more eyeballs to this A24 release than the rest of the Safdies’ oeuvre combined, though this Good Time is still no commercial picnic. Rather, it’s exciting proof of its makers’ ability to chafe and challenge audiences in a growing range of registers.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“Law And Order
is a favourite TV show for a lot of people in this film. But what can those two exotic concepts mean to them? The Safdie brothers have directed a sometimes funny, sometimes bewildering odyssey of crime-chaos and crime-incompetence, co-written by Josh Safdie and Ronald Bronstein; they borrow some tropes and images from Elmore Leonard… Good Time is a poignantly ironic title: it means the reduction of jail time for good behaviour. Any time spent outside prison is good time, although the law-breakers here do not quite appreciate this and seem to be living in a kind of jail ante-chamber. It is a sombre, downbeat movie whose initial thrills give way to sadness.”