Film Review – Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake M. Johnson

Four stars

Review by: Julian Wright
Take a lead character that speaks in monotone, give them a wry sense of humour, put them in a quirky plot and you have what is another installment of what is known as an indie comedy. You know the kind, they are made on the cheap, do the film festival circuit, then are usually discovered by mainstream audiences who are tired of J. Lo or Julia Roberts romancing the latest Hollywood hunk and make it a “surprise” hit. Napoleon Dynamite and Little Miss Sunshine, anyone? Sticking close to the formula already firmly established, Safety Not Guaranteed has failed to spark with audiences at the multiplexes in the USA, but is nevertheless a little winner like the previously mentioned films.

Darius (Audrey Plaza) is hoping to score a job as a journalist at the snooty magazine where she is busting her backside interning, but it doesn’t look promising. When she is not running mindless errands for her rude boss, she is accidentally dunking her hair in the toilet bowl while re-stocking the toilet paper rolls. Not exactly a glamorous life.

When she spots an advert in the classifieds placed by a man seeking a companion to go back in time with him in his time machine, she floats the idea with her boss and is immediately charged with investigating with sleazy staff journalist Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) who is just interested is bedding a high school crush and nerdy fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni). They track down the paranoid man, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who placed the advert and after Jeff”s attempts to befriend him to gain information fails, Darius gives it a shot and is successful. But the more she learns about his plan, the more she likes him.

Certain elements of this self-consciously hipster comedy suggest it has fallen off of an offbeat indie production line, but it is elevated by a warm and smart script that fleshes out the four leads and gives them equally compelling arcs. Another fine move is questioning Kenneth’s sanity – is he crazy, just lonely, or has he really invented a time machine? – and yet not taking a judgmental stance. The script and Mark Duplass’ performance treats the character with respect and does not use him as a target for cheap laughs.

The film paints itself into a corner – there is one of only two possible endings here, but once you come to terms with that fact it is easy to be swept up in the climax. It is light, breezy and charming with consistent laugh out loud moments. What more could you ask of a comedy? You wont want to go back in time to spend your time differently.

Safety Not Guaranteed screened as part of the 2012 Melbourne International Film Festival.

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