Safety Not Guaranteed
The Time Travelers life
It’s too easy to blast the out-of-date Hollywood movie, what with their over emphasis on massive budgets at the expense of meaningful plot and decent character development. To say that Safety Not Guaranteed was shot with very little is an understatement (a relatively short £500,000), but alas, there’s no need to feel sorry for director Colin Trevorrow. Although not responsible for anything beyond shorts and TV movies, for what its worth he’s assembled a cast that any studio would envy and a dream script to boot- and critically, its infallibly funny and endearing.
A literary adap of sorts (if one can indeed bid it that), it’s based on a classified ad requesting a suitable partner for time travel -bizarrely, one that can ‘bring their own weapons’- but isn’t exactly verbatim- it considers the life of this unusual character, with nothing but the ad for a basis. Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is the subject for discussion in a magazine assignment headed by Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), with the assistance of his über-enthusiastic interns, the Michael Cera esque Arnau (Karan Soni) and Darius Britt (Or, as several will know her, April from Parks and Recreation). The latter, whom ‘works her ass off’ at her unpaid job, develops more than a hidden attentiveness for the assignment, seeing time-travel believing Kenneth, as more than the class A ‘nut-job’ he appears to be.
It’s hard not to be struck by the quirky nature of the film, and Treverrow gets the casting spot on. He gets the indie seal of approval for getting not one but two Duplass’ on board, and Duplass lives and breathes the oddball role very convincingly. A layer of remorse is granted to Kenneth, a marvel when contemplating his uncertain aims and uncanny time-travel proximities. Though, it is Plaza who emerges the standout- the doughy-eyed actress is uniquely hilarious- a specific scene sees her act ‘coy’ for the sake of the task, and the depressive opening is inspired. Her wry take on the role would suggest an actress beyond her years and, with such a striking presence, another lead role is surely imminent.
To make these characters sizzle and excel, there’s some genuinely attractive camera work of rural seattle, and a definite candidate for wittiest car-chase of the year. Guaranteed’s final act is profoundly touching, sweet and by equal parts very ambiguous, it’s a wonder the value of the special effects are not lost on the meek budget.
Some might deem the Johnson’s tactless approach a touch too risqué (his mistreatment of women is not so much as addressed or resolved) and it begs the question- doesn’t this figure belong in a similarly coarse Apatow production? Apart from the more crude lines that accordingly make you wince, Derek Connolly’s screenplay is, for the most part, blameless. If the mainstream appeal of Battleship doesn’t fit your fancy, there’s a chance this indie comedy that veers off into sci-fi is for you.
Thoughtful, charming and eccentric, and helmed by superlative performances by Plaza and Duplass, Trevorrow has woven a promising first foray into film as ambitious as it is ambiguous. Want some advice? Treasure it. Flicks like these are infrequently (if ever) guaranteed.