A gang of outlaws, a whorehouse, and a loaded cast of revenge-seeking women — The Good Time Girls has all the necessary ingredients for a pulpy western full of violence and humor. The directorial debut of celebrated costume designer Courtney Hoffman (Baby Driver, The Hateful Eight), the film assembles an all-star cast and crew of female collaborators for this feminist twist on the great all-American genre.
Created as part of Refinery29’s Shatterbox Anthology of shorts which seeks to give opportunity to up-and-coming female directors, Hoffman leverages her professional connections to great benefit, casting Laura Dern as Clementine, a tough, no-nonsense broad whom we see executing a man in the first scene of the film with her rifle. From there we track back in time to see how this scenario developed.
Shot in gorgeous 35mm, from the opening shot we dive right into the familiar western atmosphere — the heat of the desert, the dust, and a banjo performance as the score, all set the tone. As to be expected from Hoffman’s background and her work on The Hateful Eight and Django Unchained, the costumes are on point. Dern, joined by Search Party’s Alia Shawkat and upcomer Annalise Basso, deliver kick-ass performances and Hoffman, perhaps taking a page from Tarantino, does not shy away from violence and brutality in taking her “good time girls” to battle. The film does not reinvent the wheel when it comes to western storytelling, the setup and beats are predictable, though still effective, yet the film manages to feel subversive simply in depicting women as protagonists who can give as good as they get.
To bring her screenplay to life, Hoffman assembled a “feminist army” of crew members with extensive credentials. Hope M. Parrish in the art department had previously worked with Hoffman on Django Unchained, Karen McDonald, the head makeup artist, on Captain Fantastic. Jordana Mollick the producer had previously hired her on Life Partners and the DP Autumn Durald also worked on Palo Alto. The result is a lush production that is about as high quality as you can find in the short form, with none of the anachronistic features or amateurish details that bedevil most filmmakers who attempt this tricky genre.
It is quite common to have crew members, such as ADs, DPs, ACs, eventually step into the director’s shoes, though it strikes us as more rare to see a costume designer make that transition. Hoffman’s success here shows that female talent is a less finite resource than most executives seem to think, exactly the point of the Shatterbox initiative. Hopefully Hoffman’s example paves the way (she is currently developing this short as a feature) and in the process inspires more women in film to take the step towards writing/directing.