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Sight & Sound December 2017

Robert Pattinson roams a rotten Big Apple in the Safdie brothers’ heist drama Good Time; plus Sean Baker’s The Florida Project; Dee Rees’s Mudbound; Gloria Grahame, Annette Bening and Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool; and William Friedkin on Sorcerer at 40.
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“The Safdies make movies set in the particular New York City where your ceiling almost caves in on your girlfriend and your landlord calls you a Jew.” So says Nick Pinkerton in a summary of what Josh Safdie tells him about the authenticity of the brothers’ new thriller Good Time, which stars Robert Pattinson as Connie Nikas, the smarter half of a not very smart bank heist duo. After the heist goes wrong and Connie’s learning disabled brother and partner Nick has been arrested, Connie spends the rest of a frazzled night moving from one goof-up to the next, all the time evading the cops. 

Pinkerton evokes the film by teasing out the specific geography of the shoot and the research materials that led to such a vividly fractured long night’s journey into day and that also amounts to a complete change of approach for our cover star Pattinson. “There’s still this public perception of him as a pretty vampire,” says Josh Safdie. “He was worried about that. So he had to learn on his feet, to carry himself like Connie to avoid the embarrassment of his own insecurities.”

Good Time is our cover feature but, just between us, our new issue is secretly a US Indie Special, featuring two more slice-of-American-life dramas – we didn’t want to shout about it, it’s all part of the service.

Which is perhaps what the Magic Castle motel manager Bobby (Willem Dafoe) might say in Sean Baker’s unsettling portrait of the city of Orlando’s hidden homeless, The Florida Project. Not that Dafoe is the star, any more than bright newcomer Bria Vinaite is as Hailey, a vivacious but down-at-heel motel resident. No, that title belongs to six-year-old Brooklyne Prince playing Hailey’s daughter Moonee, about whom Baker says, “I can’t even imagine this film without Brooklyne – this is her movie. And the fact that it’s still happening… We were meeting kids Brooklyne’s age who had grown up their entire lives in motels.”

Searing in a different way is the post-World War II Mississippi set rural drama Mudbound, the new feature by rising star director Dee Rees that fizzes with terrific performances, not least from singer Mary J. Blige as the matriarch of a black sharecropping family. They inherit new white masters when Henry McAllen (Jason Clarke) buys the farm, with both families soon receiving back war veterans (Jason Mitchell and Garrett Hedlund) determined to challenge the status quo. “Without the language to articulate their trauma,” says contributor Kelli Weston, “they each try to acclimatise to their new situation, with little success.”

We couldn’t resist using the release of Paul McGuigan’s affectionate drama Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool as a double opportunity, first to interview Annette Bening, who plays the underrated movie star Gloria Grahame in later life, and second to celebrate Grahame herself and her wonderful career in such classics as The Big HeatThe Bad and the Beautiful and In a Lonely Place.

And how could we resist Mark Kermode’s in-depth interview with William Friedkin about the re-release of his long overlooked but terrific remake of The Wages of FearSorcerer. “I originally wanted to call the film ‘Ballbreaker’,” says Friedkin. To which we can only add, thank goodness you didn’t.

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