Safety Not Guaranteed is an “indie-spirited” romantic comedy with a background in time travel. And it blows chunks. It’s not funny, not interesting, the characters aren’t endearing, the dialogue is not engaging and the one tiny moment of utter brilliance is wasted. I’ll discuss the morsel of (potential) genius at the end for some spoilertastic fun. Summary; must try harder.
The plot is mostly irrelevant – it exists as a background to give the characters a reason to interact. This is theoretically fine, but the characters are boring dicks. A small team of reporters are investigating a want ad in a small-town newspaper requesting a partner to go back in time with them. A douchey reporter thinks it’ll make an interesting story, and gets permission from his bitchy editor to take a couple of hapless interns and check it out. (Can you tell I despise everyone in this film yet?) They drive to the town and make contact. It’s not a bad elevator pitch, and I’ve got no problem with a character-based comedy/drama with an indie spirit like Adventureland or Cyrus. The problem is the absence of endearing characters with humourless dialogue.
For a comedy to work, it has to be funny. This is not. For a romance to work, you have to care about the characters. And I couldn’t have given a shit. The two leads – Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Kenneth (Mark Duplass) are minimally characterized. Kenneth might be insane and they train with guns and have dorky conversations. Darius contributes almost nothing and I drift off and then wake up and still don’t care. There are also some side plots with the douchey reporter guy and the other intern which aren’t good, but they provide some reprieve. Anyway, Ken busts out his zither. Dear filmmakers; please stop so desperately trying to be whimsical. You have to earn whimsy. Instead, you have earned only disdain.
Fundamentally, there’s no reason to see this film – you’ve seen the indie thing before, and done much better. You want post-university uncertainty? Watch the TV series Girls, which is actually compelling and funny. If you want to see a romantic comedy, Silver Lining Playbook succeeds at both romance and comedy. If you want time travel, Looper is pretty decent and Back to the Future 2 is vastly underrated. The one thing I like about the film is that Ken looks like comedian Dave Hill and I’m a huge Dave Hill fan. SPOILERS BELOW TRAILER!!
SPOILER-TOWN BELOW THIS LINE….
Okay, one bit that *might* be genius. The girl that Ken is trying to save back in time is actually alive. He finds this out and remarks ‘Then it worked’ which means he already went back in time and succeeded. So then I was all like ‘WOAH! Did I miss a bunch of stuff like a Shyamalan flick?’
No. The one split second of awesome is wasted and not expanded upon.