Good Time, from brother-directors Ben and Joshua Safdie, is a dour but stylish take on the all-too-familiar bank robbery gone wrong. Visually and tonally it hints at the grit and depravity of Kids, Requiem for a Dream, Enter the Void and other films that pit youthful aspiration (and desperation) against the crushing realities of life as it’s lived (referring, mostly, to terrible choices and unavoidable misfortune). Early reports from Cannes, where the film was nominated for the Palme d’Or, suggest it can expect at least cult success on wider release.
Though it didn’t win the top prize, Good Time did take home Cannes’ soundtrack-related award for Best Composer, garnered by Daniel Lopatin, known more widely as Oneohtrix Point Never. On disc, his soundtrack is an engaging and well-sculpted mass of electronic soundscape, diegetic sound and the occasional snippet of dialogue. The mood is almost always tense and often foreboding. Musically, it evokes the kinetic synthscapes of Tangerine Dream and, more recently, the Sinoia Caves soundtrack to retro-creepfest Beyond the Black Rainbow.
But both of those reference points are connected to music that is almost invariably smooth and polished. And though Black Rainbow is certainly dark and scary, it never approaches the granular, dithery digital filth that Oneohtrix is so familiar with and which he uses so judiciously on this soundtrack. Tracks like “Bail Bonds,” “Entry to White Castle,” Flashback” or “Leaving the Park” all feature the familiar Tangerine Dreamy roiling of synths in perpetual motion but are also rough and distorted in ways that connect the grittiness of the soundtrack to the grittiness in the film.
Frequently, that connection is made more explicit by including dialogue and sound effects from the film itself. The dialogue in particular can make things that much more unsettling, and it’s likely that interludes like Jennifer Jason Leigh’s freak-out at the start of “Bail Bonds” will keep Lopatin’s soundtrack from making its way into frequent rotation, even for dedicated fans of his work as Oneohtrix Point Never. As virtuosic and listenable as this music may be, it is undeniably the soundtrack to—and potentially for—a very bad trip, despite the film’s title.
Similarly, for every track like “Romance Apocalypse”—which is a quick two minutes of pure ‘80s action-movie soundtrack gold—there is another disturbing hallucination like “Ray Wakes Up,” which drags the listener below the surface of some thick, murky pool, where dialogue and diegetic sounds swirl around unnervingly underwater, while muffled voices clink and clank, as if clattering together in digital chains. The title track also evokes dark images, in this case calling to mind the more sinister moments of sound collage by the Orb, or perhaps a less blissed-out version of the Orb’s criminally underrated side project with Robert Fripp, FFWD.
The soundtrack ends with something very different from the preceding, intended as the customary ballad that plays with the film’s end credits. “The Pure and the Damned” features a gravelly-voiced and unsteadily warbling (when not placidly pontificating) Iggy Pop. The sounds around him are a pleasant if melancholy mix of piano and synth, with the aggregate resembling what might have happened if Lou Reed had recorded with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. “The Pure and the Damned” deserves a life apart from the soundtrack, just as much as Lopatin’s soundtrack itself deserves a successful life apart from the film.