Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway
Safety Not Guaranteed
"Safety Not Guaranteed" is a new daring slice of life film by Colin Treverrow. It is an open ended story in the best sense. This film doesn't throw ideas at you, but simply allows your mind to breathe, and  you will be delighted, laughing and pondering along the way.

Mark Duplass (Your Sister's Sister) stars as Kenneth, a sloppy stock-clerk at a local grocery. Duplass has a casual likable aura that is practically trademarked by now. He is the Jason Segal of the mumblecore set. The affable easy manner that Duplass achieves in many films however, is not slapstick, as it is in Segal's repertoire, but ultimately real. Kenneth is just a guy without fanfare or goofy embellishment. Such authenticity is also the hallmark of  many of Duplass' own films, organically made, sepia and earthy, without elaborate scores, effects or color.

Kenneth takes out an ad in a weekly trade mag, advertising for a partner in an actual time-travel endeavor. The ad is written in very plain speech, the gist of it being, "This is no joke. Safety not guaranteed." 
No, this isn't a Spielberg tribute but a quirky and moving character study that will keep you guessing. 

Magazine editor Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) catches the want ad and decides to get a story on the loony-sounding Kenneth. Meanwhile the suspicious and fatalistic intern Darius, (Aubrey Plaza) who will remind you of a Kafkaesque feline, is curious about the interview and decides to go along. 

What follows is a kind of road movie  (with an underrated role by Karan Soni as an uncomfortable computer tech) that moves in such pleasing but thoughtful twists and turns that it makes a lightly caffeinated rollercoaster.  The roles mix so well together that it doesn't matter whether Kenneth is a weirdo or not. We are simply along for the ride. Not since Jonathan Demme's "Something Wild" have I heard such glib dialogue or such apparent joy in chemistry between the actors. 

On the whole, in style and tone, the film echoes the startling experiments of "Another Earth" and  "The Sound of my Voice" for its free use of the conventions of science fiction, but finally making a film more about emotion than about danger, horror or innerspace . Our interest is not in what is pictured in such homemade-looking films, but rather what might be around the corner. Objects are not presented with any theatrical drama here, but rather with a casual nonchalance and this makes our discovery all the more surprising. 

Relationships, be they intimate or isolating are the real stuff of pathos and time travel and all of us make our own provocative story. "Safety Not Guaranteed" is a poignant and arousing film that never takes a
simplistic and safe journey.

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