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Friday, June 29, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed Review - by Joshua Handler

Safety Not Guaranteed Review
by Joshua Handler
2012, 86 minutes
Rated R for language including some sexual references

It is sad that independent films don't get more attention.  They are typically made for nothing, but contain more heart and story in 90 minutes than a big-budget one does in 150 minutes.  Safety Not Guaranteed is a prime example of this.  It has not done well at the box office, but is better than 95% of everything else out.  Safety Not Guaranteed is about a group of writers from a magazine that go to investigate the following ad (which was based on a real one): "Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed."  

Winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it is evident why Safety Not Guaranteed won.  It takes a 36-word ad and turns it into a heartfelt and, during some scenes, moving movie.  This film shows that what is on the outside isn't everything and that people should simply live life to the fullest.  Each character finds a way to happiness, whether it be through love or through breaking out of their shell.  This simple message is such a powerful one and takes the film to the next level.

The first half of the film is straight comedy with witty dialogue and quirky characters.  But, the second half gets much more serious as it explores the characters more.  Normally, tonal shifts such as this do not work as the film feels uneven, but this one somehow pulls it off.  It is not a sudden shift and the seriousness really works well with the film as the message comes out.

The second half of the film is also where much of Safety Not Guaranteed's heart comes from.  The moving exploration of the characters and the honesty with which the actors portray them really shines.  Every character seems lovingly written.  While the cast is all great, Mark Duplass really stood out as Kenneth, the man who put the ad in the newspaper.  He has a really charming and likable presence onscreen and I really felt like I wanted to know him.  One scene that really stood out to me with him was one where Kenneth and Darius (Aubrey Plaza), one of the reporters, are sitting in the woods by a fire and he sings her a raw, emotional song.  This scene was beautifully done as it was touching and a nice break from the comedy that preceded it.

I cannot really say anything negative about this film.  The reason why I cannot award it my highest rating is that it really is not an enriching viewing experience for me and simply didn't floor me.  It was a funny, entertaining movie that was very clever; nothing more, nothing less.

Overall, I would highly recommend viewing Safety Not Guaranteed.  It is charming, funny, and heartfelt.  In a time when movies cost millions and rely on explosions and potty humor (I have nothing against either if used correctly), this is a nice breath of fresh air.  This movie will appeal to both mainstream and art house audiences and I sincerely hope that it succeeds.


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