Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Postby CAP » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:16 pm

Safety Not Guaranteed Is one of those modest indie features from regional America that I tend to classify as ‘Sundance’. This is a genre of mostly gentle comedy, perhaps a nod to local social issues, easy pacing, strong sense of location or setting, a small scale or intimate scope to story and cast. On this one the producers’ track record includes Little Miss Sunshine, which flags a high cutsie quotient while one of the stars, Mark Duplass boasts writing credits on Jeff Who Lives At Home and Cyrus – so a bit of a thirty-something-nerd theme lurks as well. I’m giving it a six.

The story is about a reporter and two interns from a small Seattle magazine that follow up a mysterious newspaper ad by someone seeking a partner for a time travel adventure – ‘safety not guaranteed’ – ‘bring your own weapons’. It was the unlikely use of science fiction in the story that lured me to it. The reporters assume the advertiser will be an amusing eccentric or perhaps demented and that there is a modest article to be built around that. They travel to the seaside resort town of Ocean View and stake out the postbox listed in the ad, eventually discovering Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) as the mystery advertiser. The female intern, Dariuis Britt (Aubrey Blake – also to be seen in TV series Parks and Recreation) tails him to learn his job, name and address while the senior reporter, Jeff (Jake Johnson) and the other intern, a young Indian science major looking for ‘diversity’ for his academic record, Arnau (Karan Soni) wait back at the motel. There is a bit of a problem with the flow of the story at this point, because it then becomes clear that Jeff has an ulterior motive for visiting Ocean View, which is to revisit his old high school girlfriend. Up until now the focus has been with Darius so this shift is a little awkward. Jeff has scarcely been introduced as more than the office sleaze and abruptly delving further into his character here stalls the momentum. Also it’s not clear how important gaining a closer acquaintance of Kenneth will now be.

But then the whole pursuit of Kenneth seems clumsily handled from the outset. Surely the easiest way of meeting the mysterious advertiser was just to reply to the advertisement? Staking out the post box could have been a matter of days, even weeks rather than hours. On that point such luck begs credibility, not least for small-time journalists on a tight budget and deadline. Furthermore, Kenneth seems unfazed when first Jeff and later Darius approach him, even though neither has replied to his ad or met him, yet somehow know his name, workplace and address. Even for a guy under surveillance by the secret service, this is a little off-hand. But plot mechanics to one side, the main obstacle – for me - has to be the lack of chemistry between the two leads – Blake and Duplass. This is after all a romance. Blake is by far the more compelling performer and Duplass never quite gets out of second gear – the crucial exception being his song on a zither where the film does briefly and quite unexpectedly soar. But as Kenneth Calloway, Duplass looks too straight, too normal, maybe too old. The character is plainly meant to be a king loser with a killer secret but we never do find out how he acquired his formidable knowledge of theoretical physics, why, with such expertise, he cannot find more substantial employment than stacking shelves in a supermarket, what he intends to do on their return from their time travel adventure, what patents he may have in train, etc. For a meticulous planner, we learn far too little.

More positively, the time travel adventure does in the end provide an effective metaphor for true love. Their ability to revisit tragic points in their pasts and mend them, recast the direction of their lives – literally, to see the unguarded and painful sides to each other and protect them, to risk life and limb for each other, to fly in the face of the rest of society when need be, is in the end a moving tribute to deepest commitment, surely the real reason for the applause from Jeff and Arnau, as Darius and Kenneth finally depart. It’s certainly a bold storyline, and worth recommending for that, but as a film it suffers from hasty and faltering judgments, structural problems one can only hope the director learns from.
User avatar
Posts: 1081
Joined: Thu Jan 06, 2011 11:38 am
Location: Off-world

Return to Movies

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest