Stormtroopers don’t know anything about lasers of time travel. They’re blue collar workers.
It’s that time of year kiddies of Melbourne. The Melbourne International Film Festival. Yep, this is the one time of year where you can see whatever movie you want, from any country (ironically, we saw an American film), and you come across as cultured and sophisticated. Win.
So, being the highly cultured and sophisticated Melbournian that I am (go with it), my friend and I did what any respectable film-goer would do, and went for a film that had a ridiculous premise, a kooky cast and lines that literally make you do spit takes. The choice? Safety Not Guaranteed.
Safety Not Guaranteed was inspired by a 1997 classified ad asking for a partner in time travel. Yep. That actually happened. The film centres about Aubrey Plaza as a desperately unhappy intern, Darius, who is roped into tracking down a man who is looking for a partner to go back in time with. She is forced to go by magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson), who uses the premise of the article to track down a high-school romance.
Of course, when Darius meets the borderline crazy, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), she falls for his quirky, yet earnest nature, and believes that time-travel is possible. What follows is both downright hilarious, but at times touching and heartfelt, and truly makes you question what you would do if you could time travel.
As a complete package, this film is almost flawless. The two standard features for me was Mark Duplass’ acting as the child-like Kenneth, and the writing.
Playing a character who wholeheartedly believes he is right, but still comes across as bonkers, was always going to be tough. Duplass however, convincingly plays Kenneth to the point that while his actions are almost cringe-worthy (the obstacle scene is a standout) it;s also with a confidence similar to that of a five-year old boy (we all know it right? Why is it that little boys, more so than girls, believe they can achieve absolutely anything? Yet when they demonstrate their supreme talents, we all kinda go “awww”. That’s what this character was like). And despite this, we still like him. We still want him to go back in time, even if we know it isn’t possible (Or is it?)
Secondly, the writing. While I’m a big fan of humour, it takes a lot for me to laugh out loud from a film. Usually I just go “huh, that was funny” in my mind, while betraying no actual emotions. Yes, I’m one of those people. This film, however, was hilarious. Laugh-out-loud, tears in your eyes, funny. Whether it was Johnson’s portrayal of the awful, yet awfully accurate, middle aged single guy, Jeff, or the virginal Indian, Arnau, whose knowledge of stormtroopers (see above quote), perfectly encapsulates his nerd-iness.
However, there were the occasional flaws in the plot. I thought it was bizarre that Kenneth’s ex-girlfriend was still alive, yet it didn’t really have any effect on the overall storyline. And while Liz and Jeff’s romance was a nice sub-plot, it also didn’t really have a concrete ending.
For me, I thought this film was a little bit special because while it was a film about a person who is definitely oddball, at no point are they making fun of him. It’s a film about people who have regrets, or don’t really fit in with society, yet still wish to connect with someone.
In particular, for a film that is essentially a screwball comedy, it deals with some pretty touchy subjects. The regret that Darius feels about her past is almost tangible, and it makes the audience question whether there is anything they would re-do in their past if they could. To go from laughing aloud one moment, to recoiling in horror at her situation, and then laughing again five minutes later…well, that’s definitely something only the best professionals can do.
Have you seen Safety Not Guaranteed? Would you like to time travel? If so, where to and when? Going to check out the Melbourne International Film Festival? Let me know in the comments!