Welcome to The Wright Stuff, our weekly column following the career of Raptors point guard Delon Wright. Since we can’t influence his training or anything on the court, we’ll recommend films that reflect his past week and hopefully inspire a leap forward. It’ll be part film breakdown, part essay, and part whatever loose piece of wisdom we can shake from the experience.
The week began with such promise for Delon Wright and the Raptors. There were two wins against the Sixers — a stirring comeback and a solid thumping — both part of a grander six-game streak. Wright played great throughout, unveiling the silky smooth Euro-step, blocking the shots of taller players, and running amok in the open floor. He even shot 50 percent on his 3-ball attempts in those two games.
If you still needed convincing that Wright was here to stay in the Raptors’ rotation, and the NBA at large, those two games could stand alone as Exhibit A and B in the case.
Unfortunately for Wright and the Raptors, these were not the only two games they played during the past week. After the holidays, the squad headed to Dallas to play a weak Mavericks team, and lost. Then, last night, they were beat up by a superior foe in Oklahoma City. Wright wasn’t bad per se, but muted, less effective, his numbers ultimately slashed in half.
There was something disheartening about this turn of events, something that shook our sense of belief in the entire Raptors squad. We’re still trying to talk ourselves out of it — or perhaps back in.
Since this is the last Wright Stuff of the year, I’m here to reflect on my favourite film of 2017. Surprise — it’s Good Time, the crime thriller written and directed by Josh and Benny Safdie, starring Robert Pattinson. (There’s a whole top 10 here if you’re so inclined.) I saw a decent amount of films this year — though never quite enough — and none could match the frenetic pace, feverish visuals, and explosive central performance of this one.
Pattinson’s Connie is the brother of mentally-disabled Nick (played with semi-mute precision by Benny Safdie). He is also decidedly not a good influence on his brother, yanking him out of a helpful therapy session and immediately involving him in a bank heist that, of course, goes wrong. Poor Nick ends up in jail and Connie, now being hunted by the police, has to get ten grand together to get him out. All of this is done so quickly and with such reckless abandon, it’s impossible to even consider in the moment where else this movie has to go.
But Good Time does indeed have other places to go, and Pattinson, in turns manic and suave, leads the way. His Connie is not only determined to help his brother, but he is utterly convinced of his own abilities as a con man. That he is the common denominator in all his failures, the schemes that leave him one step forward and two steps back, never occurs to him. We watch him talk his desperate girlfriend Corey (a sad Jennifer Jason Leigh) into loaning him the money; we hold our breath as he breaks his brother free from police custody at a hospital; we grimace as he urges multiple people — a young girl, a poor security guard, a fellow insane con man, and others — into helping him. Connie tosses all of these people aside as if they’re nothing, because, well, to him they are nothing. He’s the smart one, the important man on a mission, and he’ll apparently stop at nothing to get where he needs to go. Naturally, it’s a trip.
The Safdie’s breathtaking technique puts us inside Connie’s dogged mindset. Like its protagonist, Good Time barrels ahead with extreme haste; but unlike its hero, it is slyly considerate of its actions. The Safdies load their film with intent — hmm, a handsome white guy using and discarding people, many of them black? — and they know exactly how to weaponize it. Their creation, Connie, does the things he does because he thinks he cares about his brother, and because he is self-assured enough to assume he’ll get away with it.
But does he really? And could he actually? We wonder and watch as Pattinson stares into the camera, knowing deep down how it all could happen.
So don’t do what Connie does, is the main takeaway for Delon. Act, yes, move reflexively around the court, sure, but also consider where it leads, what you hope to achieve, and the ultimate result. We talk often of players gambling on the court, with those high-rish/high-reward moves being sometimes worth it, and other times... not.
The final moments of Good Time, which play out over the closing credits, suggest — if you can believe this — a peaceful ending to what we’ve just seen. I won’t say anymore, except to note it’s possible Connie truly does have his brother’s best interests at heart. Or perhaps he just ran out of gas. The Safdies don’t say either way.
Wright need not leave as recklessly as all that. He should be able to persuade himself (and others) that he fits in on the court, that he can do the job, and that he’ll help get the Raptors where they need to go. As for the team, those back-to-back losses sting, but the NBA season isn’t a sprint, and the team shouldn’t have to strain so hard to convince us otherwise.
If Good Time can teach us anything it’s that wanton and rash actions eventually lead to nowhere (or back where we started). And also: it continues to be true that good things will come in their due time.