Robert Pat­tin­son slums it for a Good Time; Nei­ther Wolf Nor Dog ends up as a turkey; Bruce Lee takes a hit in Birth of the Dragon; The Teacher puts Soviet pol­i­tics to the test.

Tap­ping his none-too-smart sib­ling to part­ner in a bank heist is the first mis­take Robert Pat­tin­son makes in Good Time

The Georgia Straight - - Contents -

GOOD TIME

Star­ring Robert Pat­tin­son. Rated 14A

Shed­ding his pretty-boy im­age to play the 2

grit­ti­est char­ac­ter of his ca­reer thus far, Robert Pat­tin­son goes well be­yond what we’ve pre­vi­ously seen from the sleek young Bri­ton. But is Good Time re­ally wor­thy of his ef­forts?

The iron­i­cally ti­tled movie fol­lows a num­ber of al­legedly work­ing-class peo­ple hav­ing a much-lessthan-fun 24 hours. It cen­tres on Pat­tin­son’s Con­nie Nikas, a two-bit hustler in charge of his men­tally im­paired brother, Nick. The lat­ter is played by Benny Safdie, who di­rected this brisk ef­fort with his own brother, Josh. Con­nie’s idea of a good sib­ling day out is to rob a bank, and do it in slovenly enough fash­ion to spend the rest of the movie try­ing to get Nick and him­self out of ever-deep­en­ing trou­ble.

Writ­ten by Josh with previous col­lab­o­ra­tor Ron­ald Bron­stein, the script doesn’t ex­plain why Con­nie needed such a gorm­less ac­com­plice—or any at all—but then, it’s pretty stingy with all other rel­e­vant in­for­ma­tion. We know the bros have a trou­bled his­tory with their el­derly Greek grand­mother, but not why. Con­nie takes fre­quent ad­van­tage of his whiny, in­se­cure girl­friend, played by Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh in one ex­tended se­quence, while bat­tles with her mother loom un­ex­plained in the back­ground. Most cru­cially, we never know what turned Con­nie into such a re­lent­less weasel, although you could con­clude that the guy would do pretty well for him­self if he put his wildly in­ven­tive sur­vival skills into some­thing more con­struc­tive.

In a way, the movie’s nar­ra­tive opaque­ness is also its charm. We never know for sure where the hell we are, and nei­ther does Con­nie. This pays off in the mid­dle sec­tion, with a funny switcheroo. And the lo­ca­tions keep chang­ing in the fi­nal third. But Sean Price Williams’s hand­held cin­e­matog­ra­phy and a deaf­en­ing elec­tro score by Daniel Lopatin keep sug­gest­ing more grav­ity than the film de­liv­ers. (There’s also a weird racial sub­text to it.) With his dead-on outer-bor­ough ac­cent and sleep­less, thou­sand-yard stare, Pat­tin­son is ut­terly con­vinc­ing as some­one who, de­spite all his heavy lift­ing, we never come to care about. > KEN EISNER

THE TEACHER

Star­ring Zuzana Mau­réry. In Slo­vak, with English sub­ti­tles. Rat­ing un­avail­able

All ide­olo­gies breed cor­rup­tion, and not all 2

cor­rup­tion is about money. That’s the sim­ple and sur­pris­ingly en­ter­tain­ing mes­sage of The Teacher, the lat­est com­edy of mo­ral man­ners from Czech di­rec­tor Jan Hre­bejk, and his first in the (slightly dif­fer­ent) Slo­vak lan­guage.

The veteran film­maker has fre­quently delved into his now-split na­tion’s past, no­tably in the Os­car-nom­i­nated Holo­caust tale Di­vided We Fall. And he has a shrewdly anti­nos­tal­gic view of the Com­mu­nist pe­riod. Work­ing again with usual col­lab­o­ra­tor Petr Jar­chovský on screen­writ­ing du­ties, Hre­bejk heads to 1983 Bratislava, to fol­low peo­ple with no no­tion that the op­pres­sive Soviet pe­riod will soon be over.

At a sub­ur­ban high school, the stu­dents seem pretty well ad­justed un­til the ar­rival of Mária Drazde­chová, played slyly by award-win­ning Zuzana Mau­réry. The new teacher seems nice enough, although it’s odd that she im­me­di­ately asks how each of their par­ents is em­ployed. Drazde­chová is also the lo­cal party chief, but her min­is­tra­tions are only im­plic­itly po­lit­i­cal. Her real goal is nest-feath­er­ing: free cakes, hair­cuts, and ap­pli­ance re­pair are more her speed.

This looks rel­a­tively harm­less, but her af­ter­school work ses­sions are steal­ing kids away from sports and other ex­tracur­ric­u­lars. If they com­plain, grades suf­fer, and the more will­ing types get ex­tra help with tests and such. Promis­ing gym­nast Danka (Ta­mara Fis­cher) is sin­gled out for abuse, and Filip (Oliver Oswald) is pun­ished when he de­fends her. The lad faces big­ger prob­lems when his brute of a dad (Mar­tin Havelka) mis­reads the sig­nals. And Danka’s par­ents (Zuzana Konecná and Di­vided We Fall lead Csongor Kas­sai) like­wise think they merely have a sulky teen on their hands. Even­tu­ally, they no­tice the scam and start mo­bi­liz­ing.

The film­mak­ers de­ploy an in­tri­cate flash­back struc­ture, with a PTA meet­ing—held about a year af­ter Mária’s ar­rival—de­cid­ing the fate of the cor­rupt “ed­u­ca­tor”, who has ef­fec­tively frac­tured parental unity. This is an apt metaphor for so­cial po­si­tion­ing in a to­tal­i­tar­ian state. But scripter Jar­chovský, re­call­ing an in­ci­dent from his own school days, is care­ful to make all the par­tic­i­pants more than sym­bols.

Fam­ily apart­ments are in­di­vid­u­ated with wildly dif­fer­ent wall­pa­per—ex­cept for the blank walls of mild-man­nered sin­gle dad Vá­clav Littmann (Peter Be­b­jak), a lanky physics pro­fes­sor in dis­grace since his wife fled to the West. Our teacher has her eye on him for ex­tra-spe­cial favours; good thing his tiny son (Richard Labuda)—a nat­u­ral artist and born trou­ble­maker—proves to be the hero of the story. Beau­ti­fully ob­served, paced, and re­solved with a nifty twist, The Teacher is one of the most en­joy­ably in­struc­tive movies of the year. > KEN EISNER

NEI­THER WOLF NOR DOG

Star­ring Christo­pher Sweeney. Rat­ing un­avail­able

A highly nec­es­sary tale is told in Nei­ther 2

Wolf Nor Dog. You sim­ply have to look past am­a­teur­ish di­rec­tion, bad writ­ing, and even worse act­ing to find it.

The cen­tral prob­lem here is in a grind­ingly di­dac­tic screen­play, adapted by Kent Ner­burn from his pop­u­lar 1994 book of the same ti­tle. The book’s see next page

Robert Pat­ti­son takes on the grit­ti­est role of his ca­reer as a two-bit hustler who’s a tad too loyal to fam­ily in from the film­mak­ing team of broth­ers Josh and Benny Safdie,

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