Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) - Movie Review

What would be your reaction if you read a newspaper ad that said the following:

"WANTED: Somebody to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You'll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before.  SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED"

Apparently this was similar to a real ad placed (as a joke) several years ago, which has since been turned into a meme and now serves as the inspiration for Safety Not Guaranteed.

Safety... follows the story of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) an intern for a Seattle magazine.  Darius is a little detached socially and even her own dad (Jeff Garlin) thinks she may be depressed.  After finding the above ad, one of the magazine's writers, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), pitches a story to look the guy up and see if he's for real or just plain nuts.  Jeff brings interns Darius and Arnau (Karan Soni) along to help him out.

They travel to the town of Ocean View and find that the ad was placed by Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a local grocery store employee.  After Jeff makes a failed attempt to contact him, Darius takes the lead.  Darius is able to gain Kenneth's trust and seems genuinely interested in Kenneth, but still can't make up her mind if he's crazy about all of this.  Jeff is just fine with this as he's able to use the situation to track down an old girlfriend of his (Jenice Bergere), and it appears this may have been the real motivation for the trip all along.

Let me just get this out of the way:  I LOVED this movie!  It tells a story that's funny, smart, cute, and despite being about time travel, manages to not confuse the hell out of you or feel like a true sci-fi movie. Safety Not Guaranteed is one of those films that surprises with how real it's characters feel.

It's a shorter film, at just 85 minutes, but wastes no time at all.  After watching it, you may be surprised that it wasn't longer, because there's so much story and character development.  Every character gets their story explored, everyone has more depth than you initially suspect.  There's a surprising amount of growth for such a short film.  Nothing is really neglected or forgotten about.

Writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow really nailed it.  So many times you watch an independent movie like this and get frustrated with unlikable characters, glaring plot holes or lack of a satifying conclusion.  You actually come to like all of these people and get invested in their stories.  There's nothing in the plot that makes you go 'really' or 'huh'?  Characters act and react to things in a believable way and you understand their motivation. They are careful about not revealing too much at once and it has a truly satisfying conclusion.

After playing mostly supporting roles, Aubrey Plaza gets a shot at a leading role and she shows here that there's more to her than the deadpan characters we see her play on things like Parks and Rec or Funny People.  She's absolutely adorable and a star on the rise.  Mark Duplass keeps hitting it out of the park, whether in front of the camera or behind it.  He (along with his brother, Jay) appear to be unstoppable.  Jake M. Johnson shows a side of him you don't get to see on New Girl and I see bright things in his future as well.  Everyone comes out of this on a high note.

Safety Not Guaranteed might end up being one of my top ten favorite films of the year.  It's smart, funny, has a great cast and interesting story.  It has surprising character depth as well.  This is really one of the true gems of 2012.  It's starting to get wider distribution, so I strongly recommend checking it out if it's in your area.

4.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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