Case Number 17039: Small Claims Court


Benten Films // 2005 // 73 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // August 17th, 2009

The Charge

A story about stolen love and stolen identities shot on stolen film.

The Case

The GoodTimesKid tells the story of Rodolfo Cano (Azazel Jacobs), who enlists in the army to escape his slacker life and beguiling girlfriend, Diaz (Sara Diaz). Unfortunately, his enlistment papers are sent to another Rodolfo Cano (Gerardo Naranjo), herewith known as Rodolfo 2. When Rodolfo 2 goes to the recruiting center to straighten out the mistake, he meets Rodolfo 1. 2 follows 1 home and finds himself tangling with Diaz (who calls him "Depresso"). What starts as an oddly adversarial encounter ends up being a strange and quietly eventful evening for the two of them -- until the next morning, when they find Rodolfo 1, who hasn't yet left for boot camp.

At first glance, The GoodTimesKid might seem like another aimless indie, and in some ways, it is. But instead of giving us an insufferable interlude about self-absorbed adult kids doing nothing but navel gazing and mumbling pat profundities, writer/director/star (etc.) Jacobs infuses this with enough compelling oddness to make it a mini-masterpiece of quirk.

Unlike many of the recent crop of indie films by, for, and about 20-somethings that offer mundane "days in the life," Jacobs isn't afraid to give us something a little contrived and silly to hang onto. We never really understand why Rodolfo 1 would choose to join the army to escape his stuck-in-neutral life. There's nothing about him that seems especially gung-ho or all-American. The "sign-up for the military, do something with your life" sensibility is from another time altogether (usually, a time when there's no horrifying overseas conflict). Nor do we learn much about Rodolfo 2, besides the fact that he lives on a boat and seems to do little else, or the gangly but charming Diaz, who seems inexplicably content in her relationship with Rodolfo 1 but forms a tentative bond with Rodolfo 2.

Jacobs directs with a nice visual flair, and humor and irony overcoat the film. We learn about the characters from what they do and what happens around them more than from what they say. Rodolfo 1's anger is made clear when, at a bar, he literally cloaks himself in an American flag and gets into a fight with a bunch of strangers. Diaz does an impromptu dance when she meets Rodolfo 2, who clearly has his own girlfriend trouble as the makeshift doorway on his boat has the words "I hate you! Call me!" clumsily written on it. The oddly inevitably ending is nicely scored with a (vinyl) version of Gang of Four's "Damaged Goods."

The disc from Benten Films is a decent affair. The picture is pretty good except for one section, shot at night, that looks so grainy it might have been shot on VHS. The stereo audio track works fine. We get a nice set of extras, starting with a commentary track with Jacobs, Naranjo, and Diaz. Included are two short films, "Let's Get Started" by Jacobs, and "The Whirled" by Ken Jacobs, the experimental filmmaker who is also the director's father. There's an eight-page booklet containing an enlightening essay by film writer Glenn Kenny. We also get some deleted scenes and a trailer.

The Verdict

An awful lot of no-budget indie pics test your patience and deliver little in return. The GoodTimesKid is not one of these. Quirky, but clever and entertaining, this one is worth a look.

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Benten Films
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English

Running Time: 73 Minutes
Release Year: 2005
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Short Films
* Essay
* Trailer

* IMDb

* Official Site