Friday, 17 August 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

An odd independent film that I would compare to Brit Marling’s Another Earth and Sound of My Voice, Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed concerns three magazine writers doing a story on the man behind a bizarre newspaper ad. The ad is for applicants willing to do some time travel. The chosen applicant must bring his/her own weapons and understand that safety is not guaranteed.
It requires only minimal detective work to track down the writer of the ad (Kenneth, played by Mark Duplass). The next step is for Darius (played by Aubrey Plaza), one of the magazine writers, to win Kenneth’s confidence by applying for the position of fellow time traveller. The assumption of the magazine writers (Darius is joined by Jeff, her boss, and Arnau, a fellow intern from India) is that Kenneth is at least slightly mad, but there is rather more to Kenneth than a first meeting would suggest.
What makes Safety Not Guaranteed work are the well-drawn quirky characters, each of whom is on a unique journey toward something better. All four of those mentioned above are lonely insecure people searching for happiness, or at least a companion who will appreciate them in spite of their quirks. They don’t all find what they are looking for (and not all of these characters are sympathetic), but the few days they spend together will change them forever and it is a fascinating process to watch.
All of the actors (mostly from TV) do reasonably well here and their dialogue (written by Derek Connolly) is often funny and touching. The cinematography could have gone for handheld throughout but thankfully steered clear of that temptation. Until the second-last scene of the film, I had no idea where the film was going and I was thoroughly engaged. Unfortunately, that second-last scene, lasting about five minutes, did not work for me at all and I immediately guessed exactly how the film would end. Admittedly, this only spoiled the last ten minutes of the film, but endings are so darn important to me and Safety Not Guaranteed could/should have had a great ending. 
I am still going to give Safety Not Guaranteed ***+ for being another enjoyable quirky indie film with superior dialogue, so much better than the stuff coming out of Hollywood, like, for example, The Watch, which you could not pay me to watch. My mug is up!

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