June 17, 2012

Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

The mumblecore genre has certainly grown up. I wonder if it has grown out of the term used to describe it, or at least gotten to the point where the films can be defined by their actual genre. I don't know, I cannot say I ever paid all that much attention to them, outside of seeing a few recent outings that employ more recognizable faces then the early outings, like Cyrus and Jeff Who Lives at Home. Anyway, the latest of this type of movie brings in some science fiction elements, yet never gets bogged down in the details of it's execution. The movie is Safety Not Guaranteed and it is a quirky, indie, romantic, time travel hybrid.

In a way, Safety Not Guaranteed is sort of the anti-Primer. I do not sure if you have seen the latter movie, it is an indie time travel movie that is all about getting into the details. It is a great movie whose script contains a lot of words I do not understand. It is always bogged down in the in the minutiae of how it works. This movie, on the other hand is about the characters, the interactions, the investigation, the possibilities, but mostly te characters.

This movie is actually based on an actual classified ad that placed back in the law 1990's. It turned out to be a joke, but it took on a life of its own. I was not aware of this when it happened, but it is true. Here is what the ad said:

"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. You must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."

Intriguing, is it not? Well, this movie centers on a reporter for a Seattle magazine who thinks a story about the ad could be fun. So, said reporter, Jeff (Jake Johnson from The New Girl), takes a couple of interns and heads off on the road to find the guy and try to determine if he is the real deal or just a crackpot. The interns are the cynical Darius (Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza) and the quiet and nerdy Arnau (Karan Soni).

The thing about this movie is that it is not so much about he time travel aspect as it is about these characters learning something about themselves. Jeff is a rather smug individual who is more interested in using the trip to track down and hook up with a high school flame. Arnau is feels more chained to the present, spending much of his time buried in us laptop. Then there is Darius, her cynicism is a protective shell covering a well of pain and guilt regarding the death of her mother. This is really her story.

We watch Darius as she meets our potential time traveler, Kenneth (mumblecore pioneer Mark Duplass). The guy subscribes to his own personal brand of charismatic machismo, complete with a bad haircut, a lot of denim, paranoia (he believes he is being followed), and an interest in survivalism.

The relationships are important in all levels of the story. There is nice chemistry between Darius and Kenneth. It was interesting to watch their very distinctive personalities interact and change over the course if the movie. Will this is the dental story, both Jeff and Arnau have interesting stories as well and go through sages of growth.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a sweet natured film that tells you that there really is no going back. The past is the past and it is the past for a reason. Of course, the very end may hint at something else, but I cannot fault the direction they took there.

The performances are all quite good. There are nuances to all the characters, big and small. It is a movie that is easy to get lost in. I found myself wanting to know more about them. Kenneth is an interesting character, one that easily could have been a joke, but isn't. Darius is also an interesting character as we see the sarcastic shell crack and ultimately shatter. Heck, even Jeff has something to him.

This is certainly a movie to see and enjoy, it may not ultimately blow you away with originality, but it is still outside the norm and quite enjoyable.



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