Director: Colin Trevorrow
Cast: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni
Run-Time: 86 minutes
Release: December 26th
Sometimes it’s hard to write about such an odd little film. Even calling something like Safety Not Guaranteed an ‘odd little film’ would seem to do it a disservice. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what we have on our hands this festive season: an apathetically esoteric, and quite brilliant, odd little film.
Director Colin Trevorrow saddles up alongside writer Derek Connolly to deliver a story that could define a generation’s cynical love of “quirkiness”. Based on a real advert looking for a partner to time travel into the past with, Safety brings together two interns with a jaded journalist to head upstate of Seattle to discover the author of such an oddity. Kenneth Calloway (Duplass) waits for a sincere response to his ad, busying himself with work at a local supermarket, assault weapon training and scoping out local scientific research facilities. After a false start with journalist Jeff’s (Johnson) lacklustre attempt at a cover, Ken settles on intern Darius (Plaza) as his partner in quantum physics, unaware of her true, investigative motives.
It would be a crime to elaborate any further on the plot. It must, of course, be taken as a given that this film is excellent in ways that no one has really thought of or presented before. Trevorrow and Co present a tone akin to Jason Reitman’s ilk; the ‘Calm Bunch’. Quietly contemplative, existentially challenged and possibly still annoyed at their parents, these films ran the gamut in the mid-2000s allowing Napolean Dynamite to comedically sigh into Juno‘s painfully heartwarming sincerity. Alas, cynicism took over this sub-genre, even in times of sincerity it seemed. What Safety Not Guaranteed offers is a retreatment of the genre itself—a cynical look at the sarcasm of a generation that’s forgetting sincerity.
The performances compliment the stoic nature of the cinematography, with Duplass stealing the show, assisted elegantly by Plaza as a witness to his freakishly warming balance of playful insanity and sure-footed clarity. In several beautiful scenes the audience are given contemplative glimpses at a post-grunge Washington state where the generation gap between the two leads creates a quaint but didactic conceit for the time travelling theme. Furthermore, Jeff’s motivation lies not with the story but with his lost High School sweetheart, whom he has returned to reclaim. And so, Safety Not Guaranteed would seem to utilise the temporal joke of the concept to reminisce on the past, reliving the failures of youth and writing back against the sarcasm that has eaten away at oncoming maturity. However, the tragic nostalgia of the film is released with explosive denial, a perfect conclusion to this clever little number.
Carefully paced and cleverly devised, Trevorrow’s film is an honest twist on a classic quirk. It will no doubt slip quietly into the last days of 2012, but is assured respect and credit as a cult masterpiece.