I had a tough choice to make this weekend. Go see a rom-com about soccer starring Gerard Butler, or do anything else in the entire world. I chose the second one. One could argue that on an existentialist level, if a movie comes out and no one reviews it, it does not exist. But I prefer to voice my protest on a more literal level where I run around the front yard in my underpants blowing an vuvuzela and shouting “Gerard BUTT-ler!” until I get tired and feel like it might be nap time.
Okay. Enough of that. Let’s talk about one of the best movies of the year that may have slipped under your radar: Safety Not Guaranteed.
Safety Not Guaranteed is one of those movies that you are loathe to tell people about for fear that the word will get out and dilute your reputation as a picker of awesome indie movies no one has heard of. It stars Mark Duplass (Pete from The League), Aubrey Plaza (The Goddess April Ludgate), and Jake Johnson (Nick from The New Girl). Each puts in a performance that should make them a bigger film star if there is a just deity residing above us, watching over our children with a kind and sober strength.
I mean seriously…they knock it the fuck out of the park.
All the characters in Safety Not Guaranteed start off as stereotypes. The smart Indian computer kid. The dickhead white journalist. The maladjusted cynical twenty-something…all the tropes are here. What the movie does, via brilliant use of believable dialogue, is show us that there are real people underneath those stereotypes. They all sort of open up over the course of the movie, so in the end they seem tangible and vibrant and not re-hashed personalities we’ve all seen infinity times before. Remember how you felt the first time you watched Natalie Portman be quirky and adorable in Garden State? Safety Not Guaranteed does the same thing with ALL its characters. It’s like when your kids make you a horrible “I Love You” card with a snail, and a purple smear and some weird vagina-trees on it for no reason at all…like on a Tuesday in April*…only as a movie.
The story is that a strange man (Duplass) puts out a personal ad asking for a partner to go back in time with him. He is paranoid that the government might be after him. Plaza and Johnson play reporters with very different motives who want the story. They think they will just be writing a fluff piece about this nutcase who thinks he can time travel. And then everything you expected to happen happens. Well, kind of. I don’t want to get into it. It’s kinda predictable but the exceptional character development and interaction negates that. By the end, it doesn’t matter whether what you expected happens or not. You are fully invested.
Mark Duplass sings a song and it turns out he’s awesome at that too. He’s already an accomplished writer, director, producer and actor. I hate him. But with love.
I don’t want to spoil anything because this is the movie that stuck with me this year. It gave me happiness and hope without being all sugary and gross. It’s this year’s Hesher, and if you missed it…There’s no time like the present…
Time-travel pun… I’m so sorry.
*SUPER-proud of myself for writing “Tuesday in April” without making a “sex with Aubrey Plaza” joke. Although I thought about it. A lot. Even now.