Saturday, June 16, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

I remember seeing the trailer for this not very long ago and mostly being intrigued by how much the star, Mark Duplass, looks like a friend of mine. It got me thinking about how people choose movies. Personally, I find myself to be a very loyal movie goer (which I will go into in another post about my love for Adam Sandler). I was interested in a movie because an actor I've never seen or heard of kind of looks like a friend of mine. There was also the chick from Parks and Rec, which I now know by her real name, Aubrey Plaza. There was also the dude from The New Girl, who again, I now know as Jake Johnson.

The movie was showing at Kendall Square Cinema, a small theater that plays indie films most people never hear of while they're out, or ever. Kendall's a dangerous place to go because, as with the reason I saw Safety Not Guaranteed, you go there and find actors you really enjoy in movies that seem genuinely interesting and new. For example, currently a Catherine Keener movie is playing that I might go check out just because I find her endearing. Two of the previews before the movie were for films I will be seeing this summer: My Sister's Sister (also staring Duplass, Emily Blunt, and one of Paul Rudd's sisters from My Idiot Brother, I think...) and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (starring Kiera Knightly and Steve Carrell. Carrell being in any film is basically a lock for me to see it).

The theater was surprisingly packed which leads me to believe that word of mouth has travelled since the movie's release a week ago. The crowd is always older at Kendall, but it adds a new element that poppy movies and large theaters never seem to have. There's an intimate vibe and a feeling that you're all there together as a one group, and the laughter can be so loud that you'll miss the next line of dialogue, but in a good way. Equally surprising was the fact that probably 15% of the people stayed throughout the credits.

Duplass with Plaza in Safety Not Guaranteed
Now, as for the film itself. With a run time of 84 minutes, the film is definitely shorter than what most people have come to expect. The new Batman film clocks in at around 3 hours. I've never had a problem with a movie running under or around 90 minutes. I feel it should follow the same guidelines teachers give to students for papers: quality over quantity. However, with such an already short run time, I feel the film could have taken longer to develop some of the characters more-- or  at least make two seemingly completely separate storylines feel more intertwined.

Plaza is a young, miserable intern that takes an assignment to go with her boss and co-intern to look into an ad placed for a time travelling companion. The boss, Johnson, was my biggest problem with the film. Not that the actor did a poor job, far from it. But the character and story line were so detached and scattered that it was unsure why we were following him around at all. He's set up as kind of a douche, then for literally 10 seconds acts kind of sincere and when it's thrown back in his face he seems to be upset but comically so? The question mark is for a rising intonation as you read it to yourself. Johnson should work on channeling that high-pitched funny voice into something that can be more sincere since his facial expression remains constant. From the movie end, why not take some more time to develop his growth as a human, if that's what you were going for at all? People are there to watch Duplass attempt to time travel so if you're going to take our attention away from that, at least have it make sense.

Acting-wise, I thought everyone did a great job. Plaza held her own as the leading lady, although sometimes the whiney character she's dug out for herself gets to be too much. Duplass was wonderful with both sincerity and comedic timing that held the movie together. There were very few extras in the film which makes the acting by the main four stand out even more. Kristen Bell did a nice job with her cameo and made me get to thinking that I'm actually excited to see where her career goes now that she's done more than be "Sarah Marshall" (her part in Ken Marino's new, Burning Love, was fantastic). The music was very good and what you would expect from an indie darling.

The ending was on my mind the entire film. When the basis is around a bleeding heart hero attempting to time travel, the whole while I was wondering whether they were going to make him be a loser that has to face reality, or worse, do an M. Night Shyamalan ending that's so stupid it ruins the cool movie that came before it. Luckily, the movie concludes nicely and without much fanfare. It left many questions remaining, but unlike with Prometheus, whose  MANY questions I found distracting, this left me feeling like I get to decide what really happened to everyone I've come to know.

I've decided against having any sort of rating system because who am I to rate something. I don't believe in some universal scale that should be applied to everything ever. My feelings were only confirmed when Comcast rated Billy Madison one star: clearly the system's fucked. Anyway, overall I enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a not-too-heavy, not-too-sappy, not-too-anything kind of movie that is very different from what you'll see in most theaters.

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