Safety Not Guaranteed

Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza in “Safety Not Guaranteed.”

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a sluggishly paced, poorly structured, uncompelling, predictable, independent film.  It features stock characters facing predictable complications.

The story revolves around a magazine writer, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), who wants to write a story about someone who has placed a newspaper ad seeking a time travel partner.  He goes on the road with two of his interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza), an attractive young woman with self image issues, and  Arnau (Karan Soni), a nerdy young man of Indian decent.  Together they set off to find their subject, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who turns out to be a standard issue, neurotic OCD type indie film eccentric, that we have seen a thousand times.  The story’s main focus is on the relationship between Darius and Kenneth, who, it turns out (surprise, surprise) are kindred souls.  While there is more to the story, what it all comes down to is a question that many a movie has posed: Is this guy crazy or can he really do what he claims (time travel, in this case)?

Along the way there are conflicts, many of which feel obligatory and perfunctory and seem to be there merely to fill out the movie’s running time.  At one point the FBI is after Kenneth.  This section of the film involves two of the lamest, most unconvincing FBI guys that I have ever seen.  It looks as if the filmmakers got two of their film school buddies to put on trench coats and look tough.

The cast is adequate but unexceptional.   Plaza is attractive and charming, as Darius, but does not display much of an acting range.  Most of her line readings sound exactly the same.  As Jeff, Johnson’s character is a one note jerk.  The screenplay does not have any interest developing his character beyond that. A subplot involves Jeff trying to rekindle an old flame – a former high school girlfriend who lives nearby.  I guess that this is time travel of a sort, but the situation is unsatisfactorily resolved.

In addition to its poor pacing, the film has other structural problems.  Besides the subplot involving Jeff and his former girlfriend, there is another subplot which is left dangling.  It involves Jeff trying to get Arnau to loosen up and be less of a nebbish.  He pushes the reluctant Arnau to sleep with a woman that they have picked up.  Does Arnau sleep with her or doesn’t he?  If he does, then what effect does this experience have on him, since he was reluctant to do it in the first place?  We are never told.

“Safety Not Guaranteed,” nor is the investment of time and money required to experience this poorly paced, indifferently produced indie.

Safety Not Guaranteed, Director Colin Trevorrow, 2012,

FilmDistrict, 94 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on June 14, 2012, in New, What were they thinking? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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