Film review: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED, from Built For Speed

Safety Not Guaranteed is a quirky mix of indie rom-com and sci-if that inhabits a similar universe to Napoleon Dynamite.

The film has one of the more unusual premises in cinema this year as Seattle Magazine intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza), sleazy reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) and shy intern Arnau (Karan Soni) investigate a strange guy named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who claims he has a time machine and wants someone to partner him on his journey through the ages.  At first hostile toward any media snooping, Kenneth soon warms to Darius and starts to reveal his reasons for wanting to return to the past as well as intriguing aspects of his complex character.  As their friendship develops and Darius spends increasingly more time alone with Kenneth, the film cleverly plays with our pre-conceptions that Kenneth may be unstable and danger to her.  The film also keeps us guessing whether Kenneth is delusional or if he really has discovered time travel.

This is a low-key film but one that maintains a remarkable grip on the audience largely because of its funny thoughtful script and fine, emotionally involving performances from the cast.  Duplass is excellent portraying Kenneth as heroic, tragic and infuriating all at once and someone whose motives and mental health are unnervingly uncertain.  Aubrey Plaza’s nuanced performance turns Darius into a funny, sympathetic if occasionally spiky character. Just as memorable though is the debauched Jeff who’s more interested in stalking an old girlfriend and getting the reticent Arnau laid than doing any work.

Although it’s an unusual film it does indulge some of the clichés of the low budget quirky comedy: there’s the twee indie pop music, the cynical, nasally-voiced Juno-like young woman, the irresponsible party animal, the Indian nerd and of course numerous references to Star Wars.

The film also lags in places, is occasionally implausible and at times looks a little cheap.  These imperections, however, do not diminish the fact that the film’s charm and humour, its celebration of eccentricity and non-conformity and the way it that taps into that longing for the past we all have makes it extremely endearing.  I’d be surprised if this film didn’t earn at least a small cult following.


Nick’s rating: Three and a half stars.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Colin Trevorrow.

Release date: 18th Oct 2012.

Running time:  86 mins.

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