Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.
In the film Good Time, out this Friday, Robert Pattison — his hair so greasy it mats into about a million different directions — spews curse words in a Queens accent and ineptly attempts to rob a bank with the help of his mentally disabled brother. As Connie Nikas, Pattinson has finally found a role so singular that you could almost forget his time as the sullen Washington vampire Edward Cullen.
But I say almost for a reason. Good Time contains a scene in which this older, greasier Pattinson emotionally manipulates and kisses a 16-year-old, played by the remarkably self-possessed Taliah Webster. In that scene, Good Time reflects back a distorted version of the Twilight era, during which hordes of 16-year-olds hung Robert Pattinson posters on their walls and dreamt of emotionally unavailable vampires. For years, oodles of girls wanted nothing more than this: To be kissing Robert Pattinson.
But this isn’t Edward Cullen; this is Connie Nikas. And Robert Pattinson isn’t a lifeless creature mumbling one-liners to an equally apathetic Kristen Stewart. He’s the manipulative, selfish, absolutely electric antagonist of a movie that will bury itself under my skin just as much as that one scene did.
At the start of Good Time, Connie and his brother, Nick (Benny Safdie), don masks and rob a bank. Connie’s supposedly airtight plan quickly goes awry, and Nick ends up in Rikers Island. For the rest of the film, which takes place over the course of an event-filled evening, Connie tries to break his brother out of prison, since he remarks (correctly) that Nick won’t last long in that environment.
Thanks to his extreme knack for getting people to do what he wants, Connie adeptly rolls with the evening's challenges. He convinces his wailing, disturbed girlfriend (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to use her mother’s (Rose Gregorio) credit card to pay for Nicky’s bail. He charms the policeman guarding his brother’s hospital room, and wheels his bandaged body out of the door.
Then, by complaining that he’s been locked out of his house on this snowy night, he manages to give a tough Haitian woman (Gladys Mathon) no choice but to let him and his brother stay in her Queens apartment while they wait for their mother (a lie, of course).
It’s in this dimly lit, cluttered apartment that we see Connie’s immorality knows no limits. When the woman goes to sleep, her granddaughter Crystal stays up, clearly intrigued by the erratic stranger who dropped by — even more so after he impulsively decides to bleach his hair in the bathroom. They get high and sit in front of the TV. As jittery as Connie is, Crystal is calm, explaining the drama of her friend group with precision and weight.
Though Connie seems uninterested in sex, it’s all too obvious just how vulnerable Crystal would be if he changed his mind. With her grandmother knocked out with sleeping pills, Connie's physicality looms over her petite frame.
There is no sexual tension, until Connie decides there has to be. The tone for the nightly news blares, and newscaster begins speaking about Connie Nikas, who is still wanted for attempted robbery. A picture of him appears on the screen. Realizing that she could turn him in, Connie leads over and kisses Crystal on the lips, despite knowing her age.
Crystal doesn’t appear to be surprised. She kisses back, and they end up awkwardly splayed out on her bed. They never speak about what would happen next. He lifts up his torso and reaches for his belt. Before the scene progresses, I cringe. Is this really going to happen? Is Robert Pattinson’s character, who is at least in his late 20s, really going to have sex with a 16-year-old just to distract her from realizing he’s a criminal?
Short answer, no. Commotion upstairs interrupts their make-out session. Connie ropes Crystal in on the next bonkers phase of his evening, continuing to stoke feelings of warmth toward him in her belly all the while.
Before leaving Crystal to wait for him in the car, Connie deliberately takes a moment to mumble that he thinks fate brought them together. She nods seriously. To a 16-year-old, that kind of association between love and destiny is almost expected. It’s a natural progression of the Order of Things, as emphasized by works like Twilight. For Crystal, having a mysterious stranger lead her on an adventure is something one dreams of.
Throughout her time with Connie, Crystal is self-possessed and calm and acts like this isn't her first rodeo. I doubt this incident will dog her wildly; she'll chalk it up to a strange encounter that once happened.
It’s only horrific to me, having emerged from the cloudy haze of the teen years. Good Time only has two things in common with Twilight: Robert Pattinson, and the idea that some teenage girls long for a sophisticated older man to want them, to say all the right things. The principles of seduction espoused in that teen romance were regurgitated, and made sour, in this bleakly adult setting.
Aside from the bleached-blond hair and cursing, here's how we know Pattinson has left the world of Twilight far behind. In Good Time — and in the real world — a teenage girl's clumsy vulnerability to an older man's love is no virtue. It's what might put you in the backseat of a police car, betrayed, as happens with Crystal.
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