I’ve been curious to see the film Safety Not Guaranteed, starring Aubrey Plaza of TV’s Parks & Recreation since I first read about the film’s premise months ago. With an engaging script by Derek Connolly, Safety Not Guaranteed tells the story of a group of Seattle-based journalists who set out to investigate and report on the story behind the person who placed a classified newspaper ad that reads:
“Wanted: Someone 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.”
That’s supposedly a real ad placed in an unnamed newspaper back in 1997, but the rest of the story is fiction, and it’s just the perfect blend of quirky laughs, unexpected suspense and compelling, heartfelt characters to make this probably my favorite film of the year so far. I’m so glad I let my fondness for Aubrey Plaza and the universally glowing reviews for this film convince me to see it, despite the fact that the film co-stars actor/producer Mark Duplass — who has either starred in or had his name attached to four (4!) of the most unbelievably disappointing and just plain heinous indie films in the history of cinema (those films being The Puffy Chair, Bag Head, Hump Day and Cyrus). Seriously, the guy was maybe one film away from becoming the Indie Film version of Adam Sandler to me. Thank god that Duplass, who plays Kenneth, the charming, loner sci-fi geek seeking a time traveling companion, is terrific in this film! Maybe that’s because he didn’t write the script? Who knows; maybe he just finally hit his stride. I’ve always wanted to like him, but have you seenCyrus? Even Marissa Tomei and John C. Reilly can’t save it from being complete torture to sit through!
Anyway, there are lots of fun surprises in the film, great chemistry between Duplass‘ and Plaza‘s characters and hilarious supporting performances by Jake Johnson and Karan Soni as Plaza’s boss and fellow magazine intern respectively. In two hours I grew to care about these characters and was so excited to see if there would be any actual time travel involved. I don’t want to write any spoilers in this post so if you like Aubrey Plaza and the plot sounds interesting to you, I’m guessing you’ll love this movie. Go see it while it’s still in theaters!
The Worley Gig Gives Safety Not Guaranteed Five out of Five Stars!
In Kevin Smith’s 2008 comedy, Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Smith explored the consequences that threaten two best friends’ platonic relationship once that couple has sex with each other. I saw Zack and Miri on DVD a few weeks ago and – though it does not quite match the gut-busting hilarity of Clerks – I thought it was really quite funny, just edgy enough and ultimately a very sweet film. So, coming fresh off the positive experience of a watching an above-average comedy about two good friends making a porno film together, I had high hopes for the new Lynn Shelton-directed comedy, Humpday, which I saw at a reviewer’s screening last night. On paper, Humpday’s plot is golden: what happens when two straight friends agree – on somewhat of a drunken dare – to make a guy-on-guy film, starring themselves, as their submission to a local, amateur-porn film festival? “It’s not gay,” they tell themselves, “it’s beyond gay! It’s not porn; it’s an art project!” That’s the kind of sharp writing that makes you think, “Oh man, this is going to be good.” Sadly, no.
Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Bag Head) and Joshua Leonard (Blair Witch Project) star as Ben and Andrew, college best friends whose lives have taken different paths in the ten years since graduation. Ben has settled down as the married-employed-home-owning friend while Andrew has chosen to live as a rootless, world-traveling adventurer. Alycia Delmore gives the film’s best performance as Ben’s sensible wife, Anna. Let me tell you that I really wanted to like this film; it had a hilarious premise, talented actors, sympathetic characters, and a very well-written script peppered with realistic dialogue; yet Humpday is an oddly directionless film. It’s inability to really come together cohesively makes the viewer think that the script writer must have just decided, “Hey, this script has enough pages” and that audiences wouldn’t care that the film lacks dynamics, consistent laughs or any kind of satisfying payoff. Everybody’s actions are rather half-assed and there are way too many loose ends left dangling. I’m not kidding when I tell you that ninety percent of the scenes in Humpday involve a ten to fifteen minute conversation (one camera shoot) between two characters. Zzzzzz. Boring! Despite the fact that I did laugh out loud perhaps four or five times in 90 minutes, that doesn’t add up to a funny film. There was so much wasted potential in failing to explore the insane physical comedy you could have gotten from two unfailingly straight guys trying to work up the enthusiasm and commitment to their “project” to bone each other for the sake of making Art. Humpday doesn’t completely suck, and it’s even gotten some (mystifying) great reviews praising it as “hilarious.” But I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it.