A couple of months ago I wrote an article in which I pointed out the difference between a fast paced movie and a slow paced film and also gave some examples of both kinds. After having finished Good Time and Big Little Lies, I realized that I wasn’t done talking about the subject. So here’s why pacing is important to film… part 2.
The pacing of a film is essential to how a movie flows. A well-paced film slows down when it has to slow down and speeds up when it has to speed up. A badly paced film will feel very rough around the edges in comparison to the smooth ride a well-paced film has to offer. If you’re constantly entertained and don’t feel like the film ever has any dull or boring scenes, the film’s probably well-paced. However, if you constantly have to check your watch, it’ll probably be a badly paced film. But watch out: a slowly paced film isn’t necessarily a badly paced film. Take a look at Hell or High Water for example, or the new Blade Runner.
Pacing in Big Little Lies
Good pacing comes down to two things: the writing and the editing. A writer will have to pace out a scene so that the information given in that scene is useful, drives the story forward or develops characters. The writer has to keep the scene interesting and cut out any excess dialogue so that the scene doesn’t start to drag thus make sure that the pacing of the scene is good. The writer has to make sure that there’s a nice flow to the scene as if they were writing music. Dialogue can also help pace out a scene, by slowly building up to the climax of the scene, something that was often done in Gone Girl. Using the screenplay as a tool to pace out a scene caught my eye while watching the brilliant show called Big Little Lies.
The show revolved around three women who each have their own problems, that they’re all trying to cover up to make up a facade that they’re having a perfect life. The show depicted their lives, shortcomings, and misunderstandings with other parents, all of which would eventually unravel into a murder taking place at a party. Each episode felt like a twenty minute one, rather than the fifty minutes it actually was. This was due to the incredible writing. Every scene we saw drove the plot forward. The story never came to a halt, and when it slowed down for a bit, they developed the characters. There was not one scene in the entire show that was unnecessary. Piece by piece we got to know new information and while you probably already knew who the dead guy was by episode two, the show kept on being intriguing due to the interesting characters, good directing and wonderful performances. Of course, the editing too helped to have this show as well-paced as it is, but it’s mostly the writing that guided the editor.
Pacing In Good Time
In Good Time, however, it’s the editor who decided the pace. Good Time is a story about two brothers, one of whom is mentally handicapped, who try to rob a bank. This robbery goes horribly wrong and the mentally handicapped brother gets sent to jail, while the other one gets away. The remaining brother now has a whole night in front of him of chaos while he’s trying to save his brother. Good Time was a film I had to watch two times
before I really appreciated it. First time around I felt like something was missing or that there was something I didn’t get. I liked it but didn’t quite love it. The second time around, I loved it. And it was also the second time around I realized why I loved it so much, apart from Patterson’s performance (he’s fucking British) and Bennie Safdie’s (he’s not really mentally handicapped). And that reason was the pacing. This film’s brilliantly paced. The subject matter of the film lends itself incredibly well to the fast pace the film has. All the events the film depicts take place within one evening, where there’s a lot of stuff going on. The rapid editing places us in Robert Pattinson’s shoes and shows us how he experiences everything that’s going on. Everything’s going by incredibly fast for him, due to the number of things happening all at once. We’re practically forced to see what’s going on inside of his head due to the number of close-ups. We’re in the middle of his chaos. We’re immersed in the story because of the close-ups and editing. Here the pacing was guided by the action rather than the screenplay.
And that’s about all I wanted to add to my previous article. To shortly recap: the screenplay and action can guide the pacing as well. Thanks for reading, and I’ll possibly see you again in part 3 if I find something else to talk about.