The GoodTimesKid is a film that has it all — deadpan simplicity, whimsical heartbreak, drawn-on mustaches.
It wears its influences on its sleeve; there’s a little French New Wave, a generous dash of Chaplin-esque physical humor, and plenty of DIY indie work ethic, but The GoodTimesKid isn’t just an amalgam of types. It thrives on its own undeniable comedic charm. Free-form, but not aimless, it’s poetic, but not at the expense of a fairly strong narrative — and a captivating one at that.
Writer/director Azazel Jacobs’ father, Ken Jacobs, is an important figure in the American underground cinema movement, but The GoodTimesKid only hints at the avant-garde. It’s more concerned with small pleasures than the wildly experimental. And what a pleasure it is to share in the coincidental interaction between journalist-turned-slacker Rodolfo Cano (Jacobs himself), his girlfriend Diaz (Sara Diaz), and another guy named Rodolfo Cano (Gerardo Naranjo, who also co-wrote the script), whose only connection to the pair is the identical name — a fact he learns only after receiving a letter by mistake telling him to report for Army duty.
He didn’t enlist; Rodolfo I did in an apparent effort to do something different with his life. Diaz tells him she wants their relationship to start over, but he’s on a different trajectory, abandoning her on his birthday to commit random acts of vandalism and get his ass kicked in some dive.
Rodolfo II finds himself caught up between these two when he follows Rodolfo I from the army recruitment center to his and Diaz’s home. Before long, he’s taken off again, leaving Rodolfo II to easily fall in with Diaz, whose heart is clearly breaking, but finds a way to manage hilarious feats of whimsy throughout the film.
Her irrepressible charm is perfectly exemplified in a scene that is astonishing both for how funny it is and how perfectly it sums up the film’s sensibility. One minute, she’s attacking her refrigerator, hands covered in frosting from Rodolfo’s demolished birthday cake; the next, cheered by Rodolfo II’s commiseration, she’s dancing a jig in her kitchen in an unforgettable display of off-kilter exuberance. It’s no surprise a frame from this scene adorns the DVD cover — whomever or whatever the titular GoodTimesKid refers to, this certainly captures the spirit of it.
There are plenty other moments that are near impossible not to smile along to, like Diaz and Rodolfo II making silly faces by the silhouetted glow of flashlight or the rebellious act of drawing markered mustaches onto innocent faces that pops up near the beginning and end of the film.
The GoodTimesKid is clearly a shoestring budget affair, but Jacobs obviously knows his way around a camera, opting for consistently beautiful compositions that balance nicely with the low-budget aesthetic afforded by the overall quality of everything else.
Wisely, Jacobs allows the other two actors to occupy most of the screen time; his performance tends to be a little flat, but Diaz is enchanting and Naranjo elevates the deadpan stare to an art form. When all is said is done, The GoodTimesKid leaves viewers with a wholly effective narrative surprise, and it’s just the last in a series of other kinds of delightful surprises along the way.
The GoodTimesKid arrives on DVD on the Benten Films imprint, a relatively new distributor run by film critics Andrew Grant and Aaron Hillis. Its purpose is bringing new attention to overlooked gems, and it looks like it is already well on its way.
Special features included with this classily packaged DVD include a commentary track by Jacobs, Naranjo, and Diaz, several deleted scenes, a photo gallery, and the decidedly different theatrical trailer, which mostly consists of a four-minute long stretch of the three actors clapping their hands to signal the start of takes.
The highlights among the extras are a short film by Ken Jacobs, The Whirled, which is said to have inspired TheGoodTimesKid and another short by Azazel Jacobs, Let’s Get Started, which is another delightful chance to see more of Diaz.
Also included is a booklet that contains an essay by film critic Glenn Kenny.