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Now on DVD: "TheGoodTimesKid" (Azazel Jacobs, USA)

David Cairns


TheGoodTimesKid has a director with a famous father (Azazel Jacobs having sprung from the loins of the prodigiously fertile experimentalist Ken Jacobs [Star Spangled to Death]) and no other obvious credentials, so it must reply on its own charm and nous to get by. It more than gets by.

Think Jarmuschy slacker slowburn comedy and you'll share a ballpark with this stately, affectless, oddly friendly film, which has a kind of screwball comedy premise setting it off on a nice light and lackadaisical jaunt through a narrative that progressively ceases to exist. Gerardo Naranjo, playing "Rudolfo Cano," gets a set of call-up papers intended for another person of the same name (played by Jacobs Jr. himself) and goes along to see what it's all about. He follows the self-destructive Jacobs and meets his girlfriend, Diaz (Sara Diaz), with whom he starts a kind of pleasant non-relationship. Some time passes, which we observe. Some amusing incidents, not particularly narrative in nature, including an eccentric dance by Diaz which is the film's real Immortal Moment of Greatness, and then a surprisingly satisfying and even affecting conclusion, delivered in a 77 minute span that should be brisk but instead comes across as leisurely, modulated and making excellent use of the purely durational forms of comedy known to Jerry Lewis and generally practiced only by the brave or foolhardy.


Shot, we are told, on stolen film, TheGoodTimesKid capitalizes on the luster of actual 35mm rather than attempting anything resembling production values or even a solitary production value. The film stock adds that veneer of professionalism studiously and gratifyingly avoided in every other respect. Although the night shooting leads to a proverbial grainstorm of image noise, which is a shame—the care taken with photographic quality elsewhere lifts this film well clear of mumblecore indulgence.

It's all about the people, observed in granular splendor and with indulgent affection. Alex Cox alumnus Dick Rude cameos, but Jacobs, Diaz and Naranjo are the whole show. Naranjo, a natural mumbler, mutates into a preverbal state, scarcely uttering a coherent syllable, and coasting by with easy-going fecklessness and warmth. Diaz is too abrasive to fall into the trap of cutesiness, but has charm aplenty and a bratty nasal twang. Also big boots on the end of long spaghetti legs. Jacobs is very punk, and comes closest to pure stereotype, but the film's plot has built-in safeguards of absurdity to stop him getting too annoying or predictable.

The fact that the movie does acknowledge the existence of a world outside its trio of slacker clowns is also pleasing—specifically, its a world at war. I'm reminded of how sixties-seventies films often referenced Vietnam via TV sets and background conversation, rather than directly going there. It's long been my feeling that modern indie cinema is rather insular, and while it would be overstating the case to call TheGoodTimesKid political, at least its understated comedy and emotion occur in a world recognizably connected to our own, deeply screwed up, universe.



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