Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Man on Film: Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed, the product of first-time feature-length director Colin Trevorrow and first-time feature-length writer Derek Connolly, was cute.

If I were leaving everything there, as TSLF suggested, it may seem as though I were using cute as a pejorative. Nine times out of ten, I probably would be. This time I'm not.

Bolstered by a comedically adept cast including Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, and Mark Duplass, the team of Trevorrow and Connolly gave us a surprisingly thoughtful comedy using the possibility of time travel to explore themes of regret, longing, and trust. As stated in the trailer embedded below, Jeff (Johnson) a reporter at Seattle Magazine takes two interns, Darius (Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), to a resort town to find the man who placed the classified ad on the poster to the right. They find Kenneth (Duplass), and Darius gets in with him.

The set-up is in the trailer of course, and I just wasted precious time and keystrokes on the last paragraph, but Safety Not Guaranteed succeeds by and large where many other films would fail: in treating the subject of the piece, Kenneth, with respect. While the reporter and team head out to the seaside resort town with the notion that they're seeking a nutjob, the treatment of Kenneth by Darius is surprisingly sweet and earnest. While he is certainly different and a bit weird, it doesn't take long to wonder if maybe, just maybe he can actually do what he claims.

In treating Kenneth as something other than a joke, Trevorrow and Connolly open up the film to the opportunities that thoughts of fixing the past can present, both in reality and theory. It is a surprisingly introspective comedy that manages to be cute without being cutesy. Plaza gets to show a little range in a role that allows for her to stretch past the droll and disaffected twentysomething she's usually tasked to play. Much of the heart of the film, which it has in spades, comes from the surprising Plaza. While her character on Parks and Recreation has grown since the beginning of the series, Plaza doesn't often get to veer away from being sardonic. Her sincerity in Safety Not Guaranteed is refreshing. Don't get me wrong, Duplass and Johnson are both great, but Plaza is the revelation.

Go see this.

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