I am a very hip media consumer. This means of course that I follow The League, Parks and Recreation and the New Girl religiously. I also root for the actors of these series (except for Zooey, she is too cutesy to root for) in the various films they act in, produce or direct. So when I saw that Safety Not Guaranteed has Audrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson in it… I waited until I watched it a couple of days ago. (you thought I was going to say I ran to go see it, but it has been out and on Netflix for quite some time.) But I was intrigued by how these television actors can translate their skills to a more succinct platform like film. The result was a pleasing but not exciting film.
Audrey Plaza plays a sarcastic young intern at a magazine. A magazine staffer comes across a weird classified ad that asks for a companion to time travel with and asks if he can bring along a couple of interns to go investigate. The magazine staffer is not really interested in the story, but more interested in getting back together with a former flame. So it is up to Ms. Plaza’s character to investigate and infiltrate this crazy person’s ad. She slowly gets sucked into this crazy person’s world. She falls in love with him against all odds while the supporting characters come of age through their own experiences. Everyone is hunky dory in the end.
I think the only problem I had with the film is the amazing amount of quirkiness that is going on in the film. The premise itself leads to quirk, but the casting choices, the dialogue and the characterization also leads to an abundance of quirk that is too much to handle sometimes. For instance Mark Duplass’s character wears a headband, rocks acid wash jean everything and trains for his time travel duties with a series of insane activities. It is hard to see for the first half of the film that he is a real character with feelings beyond wanting to time travel. It isn’t until Audrey Plaza’s character starts to fall in love with him do we see some side of him that isn’t just convenient character traits. The same could be said about Ms. Plaza’s character. She has to be the sarcastic curmudgeon because that is what the script calls for and only because of that. However each character and each storyline does sort of get you at the end. Each character does grow and realize what they need to change in their lives in order to be a better person (except for the main character’s dad. He is still probably at that kitchen table eating Chinese takeout). This is why I am being so easy on the film. Yes parts of the story bothered me at the beginning (especially Jake Johnson’s character and the Indian intern’s relationship. Not everything in this world is about getting laid. Can someone please tell all of the Hollywood executives for me?) but by the end the story grounds itself and realizes that in order to have emotional truth you must strip away some of the quirk.