Impressions of … Safety Not Guaranteed [Colin Trevorrow]

this is a charming if slight indie rom-com stroke whimsical sci-fi caper inspired by a classified ad which appeared (I’m told) in Backwoods Home magazine in the Nineties:

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Trevorrow’s film concentrates on the first part of the ad – the need for a partner on the mission – but neglects other aspects of the ad: the matter of payment is passed over, weapons and self-defence are played for laughs, and most glaring of all, we hear little of the startling assertion that he’d already been back: the first question you’d ask is ‘what was it like?’ or ‘where did you go?’, but the journalists – implausibly bank-rolled by their provincial print magazine – see the story as a (mocking) character piece and the guy himself doesn’t really mention it (in fact, it appears he’s still putting the finishing touches to his machine, so why did he claim to have done it before?)

you wonder what kind of person would place this ad? a certifiable comedy genius would be my answer, although with ‘certifiable’ I do intend the mental health connotations of the word, Trevorrow hypothesizes a kind of charismatic loser, intense and vulnerable, but then decides he’d prefer him to be a winner …

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there’s a curious, refreshingly tentative, almost-romance at the centre as one journo (a very watchable Aubrey Plaza) poses as a would-be time-traveller, with the issue of trust doubling nicely in both romantic and adventure plots, while Mark Duplass is suitably intense as the paranoid inventor, perhaps too intense, this guy was too close to madness for the relationship to have a future, meanwhile Jake M Johnson steals the pic as the hack more interested in reviving an idealized adolescent romance, the script serves him well, a lazy arrogant asshole, a familiar type, whose vulnerability retains our sympathy, especially in a lovely impassioned speech delivered to the virginal (male) intern: “why are you sitting here? why would you be sitting at your computer, you’re a young man, you’ve got the whole world ahead of you, I’m asking you to be a man and try, are you ready to have a crazy night with me, ’cause I’m ready, say you’re ready, say you’re ready”. Great comic writing, nicely delivered

this is the kind of indie which could have been made by the studios, a film that will lead to bigger things to all (though Duplass has already made that journey)

the ending is a serious, though sincere miscalculation

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