The true gift of the Sundance Film Festival is the fact that it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Many films get picked up for distribution every year and in some cases you see them sooner rather than later. While something like Tucker and Dale vs Evil didn’t get the distribution it rightfully deserved, at least it eventually got released. With next to no fanfare, it almost felt like a direct-to-video release in the process. This summer, we get treated to another comedy that deserves the attention of both critics and moviegoers alike in director Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed. Hilarity may ensue, but director Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly (both making their big screen debuts), keep the story grounded in reality making the situations even funnier.
Darius (Aubrey Plaza), interns at Seattle Magazine. Bridget (Mary Lynn Rajskub) runs the show while finding time to sleep with writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson). Jeff has found an ad in the paper advertising someone looking for a companion for time traveling. The ad also claims that the writer of said ad has already done this once before. Jeff convinces Bridget to let him take two interns, Darius and Arnau (Karan Soni), along with him to Ocean View, Wash., to write a story on this mysterious ad placer. The three travel to Ocean View where they stalk the PO Box listed in the ad which turns out to belong to Kenneth (Sundance heavyweight and producer Mark Duplass). After Jeff rubs Kenneth the wrong way it’s up to Darius to investigate the story to find out if Kenneth has done this before, as the ad suggests, or if maybe he’s as crazy as everyone else thinks he is.
Packed to the gills with gut busting laughs while wearing its heart on its sleeve, there’s far more going on here than you’d think. They even find spectacular ways to keep the film pop culture savvy while the characters all face their own battles against loss and regret. Plaza proves she can already carry a film on her own while Duplass plays a far more sensitive character than we’re used to. Jake M. Johnson tries to make the most of a subplot involving his first love, Liz (Jenica Bergere), whom he hasn’t seen since they were 18 years old, but unfortunately it isn’t given the time for a proper wrap up. I’ve heard that there were several endings filmed, but I have to say, the one chosen is the only way the film could end properly. So while Kenneth may state Safety Not Guaranteed in his ad, I guarantee this is one of the year’s best films so far.
Photo courtesy FilmDistrict