DVD Review: Safety Not Guaranteed
It's time travel on a smaller, indie scale...or is it?
Darius (Audrey Plaza), an unhappy magazine intern, goes on an assignment with two coworkers to investigate a man (Mark Duplass) whose local newspaper ad asks for a time traveling companion. She quickly loses focus of the story and becomes intrigued by Kenneth's genuine belief that he can time travel.
Since falling in love with Parks & Recreation a couple months ago, I've been equally interested in Plaza and her amazing deadpan delivery. Darius' general apathy with everything is typically the kind of annoying character quirk that I'd hate to watch on screen, but Plaza's perfected this personality trait so it's actually fun to have such a downer for a protagonist. And it becomes even more satisfying when Darius' relationship with Kenneth takes off and there's something in her life she doesn't simply loathe. And though I've never particularly cared for Duplass' off-beat brand of comedy, his oddball performance and chemistry with Plaza warmed me to him instantly.
Sadly for a clever premise, the film does follow a formula, and except for the final five minutes almost every direction the film takes is obvious two scenes before it happens. However, Safety's main plot won me over in those final unpredictable minutes because it made a clear decision to leave the audience with a definitive ending, something missing from a majority of indie films. There is no question whether or not Kenneth was the real deal or a complete nutcase. It was a bold decision to say one way or the other, instead of leaving it to the viewers' interpretation, and in this situation it was an admirable one.
Though the two leads worked well together and the character development was spot on with a satisfying ending, I still wish the story had more focus on Darius and Kenneth. At such a stunted runtime (85 minutes) it feels as if half the film is dedicated to Darius' coworkers Jeff and Arnau's shenanigans on the business trip, which aren't half as interesting. I quickly lost interest anytime the film pulled away from the central plot because seeking out old flames and finding one's self are quite dull in comparison to a guy who claims to time travel. And because of this ultimate lack of focus, Safety Not Guaranteed was an admirable effort, if not a great final product.