DVD Review: Safety Not Guaranteed
Satisfaction not guaranteed
I was looking forward to seeing Safety Not Guaranteed for months. It had an awesome trailer and got awesome reviews. I finally got to see it a few days ago. I thought it was really stupid.
I think the movie tries to be a thought provoking, ambiguously interpreted romance about unexpected curveballs in life or something. Don’t judge a book by its cover and all that stuff. It’s also about lifelong dreams finally succeeding, or, more realistically, dying. For a while it succeeds because the movie’s nougaty center leads us to believe it is heading somewhere, that there is an actual reason we are dedicating eighty-six minutes of our lives to watching it. Unfortunately this product is not as advertised, and satisfaction is not guaranteed.
The movie is about “journalist” Jeff Schwensen (New Girl’s Jake Johnson) and helpless interns Darius Britt (Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (no sitcom’s Karan Soni) as they travel to a nearby town in pursuit of an interesting story for their magazine. Jeff found an ad urging someone to join the writer on a “journey to the past, like through time and stuff. The partner must bring weapons, because safety is not guaranteed. This is not a joke.” The three decide to see what this guy’s deal is and probably make a joke out of him.
The writer of this mysterious ad is none other than Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), some psycho grocery store worker man. After some creepily extensive stalking (#journalism!), Darius (btw wtf @ her name) gradually gains his friendship and wins his trust. After a few lab coated bald guys begin stalking Kenneth as well, Darius learns that there may be some truth to his time traveling request after all.
The movie’s simultaneous redeeming quality and Achilles heel is its laborious affection for itself, so infatuated that you can’t help but to fall for it, too. It wants to be one of those cute little indie movies with unique characters falling in love and learning life lessons under unique circumstances. The movie never relinquishes this vision of itself, even if it probably would have benefitted. Not that the movie isn’t sweet at all. When I finally fell for the characters and the story around three quarters through, I felt as though it had finally become the film it clearly planned to be the whole time.
And then the ending happened. I can almost understand why screenwriter Derek Connolly chose this particular path to end the film on, or why director Colin Trevorrow did not object to it. In fact, it’s a mystery that no one involved in making the movie prevented it from happening. It’s certainly original and will certainly leave a lasting impression, to say the least.
Notwithstanding, it still comes off as a desperate corner-cutting ploy to elicit that exact reaction out of the audience. The film stumbles across the increasingly thin line that separates originality from a bad idea. It wasn’t romantic, it wasn’t artsy, it didn’t make the movie worthwhile. It was lame.
I was okay with the film, even leaning towards a positive review when it started winding down. By the end I felt perplexed and scammed. If you want to see it, I would suggest renting it on iTunes for a dollar like I did (in HD no less!). I feel like it should have come with one of those “satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back!” warranties, because I could have spent that dollar on something much more important. Like downloading Justin Bieber or something.