Film Review : Safety Not Guaranteed
06/23/2012 05:22PM ● Published by Justin Buettner
Jeff, A Seattle magazine writer, puts together a small team to investigate an unusual classified ad that seeks a partner for a time travelling expedition. Jeff brings two interns, Darius and Amau, to the small Oceanside town where the quirky time traveler, Kenneth, lives. The trio all have emotional issues that haunt them, and through this road trip and investigation they begin to resolve their issues while Darius begins to believe Kenneth may actually be able to build his time travel machine as she falls in love with him.
This independent film is an odd journey of people in different states of regret over their past and when they are brought together they find ways to help each other out. What could have easily been a very depressing movie actually has an uplifting spirit buried beneath it. What’s refreshing about a movie like Safety Not Guaranteed is that it comes to different conclusions that normal cookie cutter romantic films that big budget Hollywood offers don’t. So even though the production values at times are noticeably bad (there are a few shots in the film that look as though they were recorded on my parents old VHS camera) the story carries it through.
The movie leans heavily on the performances of the four lead actors and luckily they deliver. Mark Duplass as Kenneth is able to walk that fine line of making a crazy character likable. There was something honest in his performance that prevented Kenneth from being a caricature of a person. His passion for his mission, despite how silly on the surface it looked, made Darius’s actions and emotions seem reasonable. Aubrey Plaza is at home in the role of Darius, which is an extension of her Parks and Recreation character at times. I really like Plaza as an actress and would love to see her reach beyond the depressed dead pan young girl roles, even if she plays them well.
The relationship I found to be surprising in the film was between Jeff and the Indian intern Amau. The whole point to the trip for Jeff was to reconnect with his first high school girlfriend. Sensing his age, Jeff longs for his youth when he was wild and carefree. Amau, being young and 21, is so repressed and shy that life is passing him by. Jeff taking Amau under his wing to break him out of his shell before his youth had passed was performed well by both actors. By living vicariously through Amau, Jeff is able to find peace with his age and place in life.
First time director Colin Trevorrow was able to get strong performances from his actors and handles the pacing of the film well. I enjoyed how he along with first time writer Derek Connolly give the audience credit to come to conclusions on their own, they didn’t spoon feed every emotion and piece of information. That is until the last shot of the movie.
PLEASE DON’T READ THE NEXT PARAGRAPH UNLESS YOU HAVE SEEN THE MOVIE
The ending to this movie was one of its biggest problems. I felt the time travel effect was too neat. I would have preferred if they left the end a bit more open ended leaving the audience to decide for themselves if the time machine worked or if it blew up killing both characters. Safety Not Guaranteed leaves little doubt that the time machine worked, and although that is a more uplifting message, I don’t think it fit with some of the other decisions in the movie.
SAFE TO READ AGAIN
It’s a shame small movies like Safety Not Guaranteed don’t find larger audiences. Movies like this demonstrate that stories and characters do matter and it’s a refreshing change to the countless retread romantic comedies that come out every few months. If you are a fan of light dramas about interesting characters with real problems this movie will be for you. Safety Not Guaranteed may not be a flashy film, but it is effective and well worth seeing.
Films like Safety Not Guaranteed : Timer, Groundhog Day, and Happy Accidents
Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.