Film Review : Safety Not Guaranteed

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My girlfriend classifies my taste in movies as “juvenile”. I don’t argue with her. Not because I agree, but because history dictates that you don’t pick fights that you cannot possibly win. To tell you the truth, whenever I’m on IMDB, fishing for the next movie to download, I usually find myself browsing through the categories Action, Sci-Fi, War and a few other equally cheerful ones. That’s how I stumbled upon “Safety Not Guaranteed“. I then proceeded to obtain it, never mind how, expecting a lot of sleek tech, computer graphics, sexy females in futuristic costumes and what not. The movie turned out to have anything but those, and I’m glad it did.

The story starts off in Boston, when Jeff, a reporter, stumbles upon an ad in the classifieds that goes like this,

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The reporter, desperate for a story, decides to go to Ocean View to investigate. He believes he will have enough material to write a funny article about some lunatic. He takes along two interns with him : Arnau, a predictably nerdy and intense Indian with a predictably atrocious accent. And Darius, a pretty but outcast girl with an unhappy past.

They arrive at Ocean View, and locate the man who had placed that ad, one Kenneth Calloway : a man who believes that he has built a time machine. Jeff tries to talk to him but is rebuffed. The job then falls to Darius to befriend Calloway with some feminine charm and to draw the story out of him. What follows is difficult to describe without giving away spoilers, so I’ll not go there. But I can tell you this, even when the movie ends and the end credits start rolling, you’ll have trouble making up your mind whether you have watched a sci-fi movie, or a subtle dark humour movie with lot of unanswered questions, or just a sweet low-budget comedy. And that, is what makes this film special.

The director, Colin Trevorrow, is a complete unknown, but he does a beautiful job of stitching his characters and story together. The cast, an exceptionally small one, perform their roles well, staying true to their characters. Jake Johnson plays the middle-aged reporter, Karan Soni the usual hapless Indian, and Mark Duplass plays Kenneth. But it’s the pretty Aubrey Plaza who effortlessly steals the show with her portrayal of the social misfit girl. Through her curt dialogues, convincing body language and beautiful expressive eyes, she plays her role to perfection.

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To be honest, the movie does have the occasional hiccups and frankly silly scenes. For example, the sub-plot about Jeff’s old flame is a little to obvious as an obligatory but unnecessary distraction. So are those two rather lame government agents. And so is the bit about Jeff teaching Arnau all about being a man. Also, not that Mark Duplass does any injustice to his portrayal of Kenneth, but I could not avoid the feeling that someone could have done a better job of that character. But then, it should also be noted that the movie was made for less than a million dollars, and that does place considerable restraints on casting choices. Also, truth be told, you wouldn’t really be bothered by those rare moments when the movie falters. Because the odd but endearing chemistry between Kenneth and Darius would be more than enough to hold your attention. And if I’m not wrong, you would to busy trying to figure out where the story is going to start bickering about the occasional few minutes when the movie turns slow.

The movie ends in a way that is more of a leap of faith than anything else, but I think you’ll like it even more for it.

To sum up, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a nice, sweet, off-the-track indie film, both endearing and thought-provoking. In my opinion, it’s a must watch between all those big-budget blockbusters that choke you on star-power and expensive visuals. Sure, it’s just my opinion, and you’re free to have a different one. In fact, you can choose to be a cynic and keep sniggering every other minute. But then, entertainment in general and science fiction in particular, were never really made for cynics, were they?

Live long and prosper, and may The Force be with you.

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