Saturday, November 17, 2012
Safety Not Guaranteed
You know those recut trailers on youtube, the ones that turn The Shining into a goofy comedy, or The Big Lebowski into an uplifting buddy adventure? This movie is basically a feature length version of one of those things. Take a movie about a deranged, paranoid loner and, by casting primarily comedic actors, heightening the comedy elements of individual scenes, and scoring it to a gentle, indie-infused soundtrack, turn it into a romantic comedy. Some of it works, some of it doesn't, but since how you feel about the film I think ultimately revolves, in large part, around how you feel about the ending, I'll only say that I did not like the ending, and that because of it the movie was more miss than hit for me.
Aubrey Plaza plays Darius Britt, a 20-something interning at a Seattle magazine and the character, not unsurprisingly, is a carbon copy of the character she plays on Parks and Recreation. She spends the bulk of the movie interacting with and ultimately forming a bond with the aforementioned deranged loner played by Mark Duplass, and you can see in this relationship why Plaza was cast in the role. Duplass's character Ken Calloway is something resembling the mirror universe version of Andy Dwyer - they have the same self-confident, doofy insanity, but while Dwyer's craziness is soft and round and comfortable, Calloway's is sharp and not a little terrifying. Calloway has placed the ad seen the poster in a local paper, and one of the writers at Plaza's newspaper, Jeff (Jake Johnson) takes her and another intern, Arnau (Karan Soni) along to do a story on him. Duplass's character, it turns out, is dead serious about planning to travel through time, and he sees spies and assassins around every corner. A few different choices here and there and this is basically a slasher movie, with Plaza getting closer and closer to the man who will ultimately butcher her friends and then turn on her (and of course Plaza would get the better of him, because she's excellent Final Girl material, all prickly edges that hide a soft center). The film even toys with this expectation, filming Plaza's entrance into Duplass's house very similarly to how a genuine slasher movie would.
But it's not that kind of movie, it's the kind of movie where Duplass romances Plaza with a song he wrote on a zither, and where Johnson's douchebag character hooks back up with an old flame who he expects to look like something resembling Kristen Bell (who makes a late-film cameo as the girl Duplass is traveling back in time for) but who is ever so slightly bigger, and redder of hair, and older-looking than that. I won't go too much into that part of the film except to say that it doesn't really earn its resolution.
There's a low-key good-natured energy to the movie. I didn't find anything about it actively hateable, but I did not like the ending, and too much of the film's narrative focus is built around what, exactly, Duplass's character is up to for me to give this much more than a tepid recommendation. C+