When: Thursday, 18 October - Sunday, 18 November
Where: Various Cinemas, Auckland
How much: varies
I must admit when I first saw the trailer for Safety Not Guaranteed, I cringed. I thought here we go, just another indie film trying to jump on the Ďquirkyí bandwagon without quite pulling it off. Well, I might just have to eat my words.
The filmís protagonist Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza), who is rather gorgeous in a hoodie wearing grungy kind of way, has never really fitted in. After college, for lack of anything better to do, she ends up interning at Seattle magazine where she volunteers to go on an unusual field trip with a couple of other reporters. Her superior Jeff (Jake Johnson), has an idea for a tongue in cheek feature when he comes across a classified ad seeking a travel companion to go back in time with. The funny thing is this ad was actually placed in Backwoods Home Magazine a few years ago and subsequently became a bit of an Internet sensation.
Once Jeff, Darius and another intern, the painfully shy Indian biology student Arnau (Karan Soni) track down their guy, they quickly find out (surprise, surprise) that Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is the hyper paranoid type and is convinced there are government spies watching his every move. Of course he doesn't buy it when the obviously skeptical and arrogant Jeff turns up on his doorstep pretending to respond to the ad. When cute and quirky Darius tries it on however, he falls for it. Before she knows it, Darius is undergoing physical and firearms training in preparation for the trip back, as well as getting involved in laser theft.
Jeff isnít really paying much attention however, because he has an ulterior motive for the trip. Desperately hanging on to his uncomplicated youth, he fantasises about hooking up with an old flame who still lives in the seaside town. Heís dealt a bit of a reality blow though when his expectations arenít met. Determined to drink his way out of the disappointment, Jeff drags Arnau out and forces upon him a hilarious and endearing pep talk about the fleeting nature of youth.
All the while, Kenneth is slowly beginning to trust Darius. Getting to know his sensitive side touches Darius unexpectedly. She starts opening up to him in ways she no doubt doesn't expect. The dilemma, of course, is you know eventually Kenneth will have to find out Darius only became involved in the mission for a story, but if you think you know how thatís going to go, you might just be wrong.
The fact Safety Not Guaranteed is only the first film by Derek Connolly (writer) and Colin Trevorrow (director) is surprising considering what a rare gem it is. Itís cleverly written, never tries too hard and has heaps of heart. What grounds this film is the authenticity of the characters, you can believe in them even if the mission seems utterly ridiculous. And the more these personalities develop, the easier it is to get caught up, as Darius does, in the fantastic adventure of it all.