March 1, 2013

Safety Not Guaranteed

Colin Trevorrow, 2012


Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni and Mark Duplass star in this film about a magazine doing a piece on a Craigslist ad from a mystery man looking for a companion to go back in time with. The film jumps right into the introduction of Plaza's character Darius. Darius is a sad sap, still living at home, who is looking for a minimum wage job to spark some kind of progression in her life. She settles for an intern gig at Seattle magazine. She has immediate interest in the investigative piece on the time travel ad, and ends up going away for a few days with the two other men who work for the magazine. One guy is the misogynistic frat-guy type who has the ulterior motive of hooking up with an old fling while they are away (even though it was his idea to pursue the Craigslist ad), and the other guy is an intellectual Middle-Eastern introvert in his early twenties. He's only working for the magazine to add some extra color to a presumably long list of academic and occupational achievements on his resume.

From a cinematic perspective the film is cleanly edited, has witty dialogue, good music and a genuine romantic element.  I am REALLY picky with comedies these days - in fact I don't even remember the last really good one I've seen. I was happy to see Mark Duplass outside of The League, and he seems to have some range because his character Kenneth was quite distant from his League character Pete. I was really impressed with Aubrey Plaza's performance. She fits nicely into that category of comedic actresses who play on that awkward/uncomfortable theme (Kristen Wiig, Amy Poehler, Kristen Schaal).

The films in the "romantic comedy/time travel" genre do not have a lot of company... So you're already in pretty unfamiliar territory when making a film like this. It also puts you in the company of films like Back to the Future, so there are also high expectations. This film succeeded in the sense that it doesn't even matter if the time machine exists. The humor hits when it needs to and the love feels real.

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