Let's Do The Time Warp Again

In my State of the Art post about the movies of 2012, my friend Kevin commented and asked if I had any plans to see Safety Not Guaranteed, but you'll note that he didn't mention whether he liked it or not. Curious. After he mentioned it, I put it on that nebulous list of movies that I'd watch if I ever got around to them, but wouldn't make any special effort to consume.

Mumblecore is not particularly high on my genres of choice. I tend to find the movies that fall under that label smug and annoying, and as one of the representative faces of it, I'm not a giant fan of Mark Duplass, either. Still, the chatter I heard on the internet about this movie intrigued me, and after Kevin's comment, I decided that if this movie ever fell into my lap, I'd give it a go. Well... I was at another friend's apartment to hang out for the evening, and when we couldn't get Premium Rush to download fast enough, guess what was waiting in his queue of rentals?

So, Safety Not Guaranteed is about April Ludgate... Sorry, I mean Aubrey Plaza, who is struggling along in a deeply unfulfilling intern position at a magazine. Her douchey boss, Jeff (Jake Johnson), stumbles across a classified ad asking for a partner in time travel, and thinks it would be a goof to check it out, so he heads to the Pacific Northwest town it was placed in, dragging Darius (Plaza) and Arnau, a shy, nerdy, Indian intern (Karan Soni) along to do all the work.

The movie then splits into two paths, one with Darius' developing relationship with the time-traveling conspiracy theorist Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and the other about Jeff tracking down a high school fling and discovering the life he gave up to be a supposed big wheel. Oh, and Arnau gets laid along the way.

I'm surprised at how much I liked this movie. It never disappears up its own ass, like so many other movies of the genre, and doesn't devolve into technological gobblygook to excuse its premise (that would be Primer's ears burning right about now). Kenneth is first viewed as a nut, of course, but the feasibility of time travel is basically ignored until the very end. It actually doesn't matter if Kenneth can deliver on his promises, the movie suggests, because Darius' outlook on life is changed simply through the act of getting to know him.

It helps that the film is extremely well-acted. The tics that Plaza and Duplass sometimes over-employ are tamped down, and their relationship feels very natural. Jake Johnson is outstanding as that guy you kind of want to hang out with, even as he's being a colossal asshole. Kristen Bell and Mary Lynn Rajskub have small roles, but are reliably good. Usually, if I wind up watching a film I was going to let pass me by, my worst fears about it are confirmed. But in the case of Safety Not Guaranteed, I would have missed out on what turned out to be a pretty charming little movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed: B


Kevin said...

So glad you liked it! It's one of those movies that I think the less I say about it the better (which is true of every movie). I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It's one that will stick with me for a long time.

Limecrete said...

So I guess "I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it," is the general consensus, then. Thanks for giving me the final push I needed to see it!

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