Monday, December 10, 2012

Paragraph Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

This is a movie where April from Parks & Recreation and Nick from New Girl work at a magazine in Washington state together--he's a writer, she's an intern--and go on a road trip with a third guy to do a story on Mark Duplass from The League, who put out a personal ad for a partner to accompany him on a time travel mission and may or may not be crazy. I used Aubrey Plaza and Jake Johnson's well-known character names above because they really aren't straying very far from them, but that's actually quite a good thing as they're both great at playing those characters and also shift them just enough degrees to the side that they've got something new to offer and can thrive in a feature length film as opposed to a half hour episode. Duplass on the other hand plays Kenneth, an intense and eccentric possible genius/possible madman who is nothing like Pete on The League and in the process shows the dramatic and emotional chops I pretty much knew he had because the guy's got mad indy cred, but had never seen on display before and was really impressed by. The story is divided up perfectly, with a heavy bulk focusing on Plaza's damaged Darius getting to know Kenneth under the pretense of working undercover on the story but in the process getting wrapped up in the purity of his out there beliefs, but another good chunk about Johnson's Jeff coming to terms with the fact that he's getting older with a sweet, kinda sad attempt to rekindle a teenage romance with his old girlfriend Liz--endearing Jenica Bergere--and then trying to get his other shy male intern laid. Even though Plaza's calculated jumps from cynicism to hopefulness and back coupled with Duplass' laser sharp performance carry the plot, I got the most joy out of the little touches Johnson put in, from the gleam of joy in his eye when he gets to go on a 15 mile per hour car chase to a depressed quick shot of him chugging a flash in a bumper car; they're all brilliant. The way writer Derek Connolly splits the script down the middle and jumps between two distinct storylines that interweave only through a couple shared characters reminded me of TV plotting, but did not feel out of place and made for a great, tight, under an hour and a half package. There are fun cameos from Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jeff Garlin and Kristen Bell, plus at least two great twists toward the end in a movie you think you've got figured out pretty early. I loved the heart, I loved the comedy, I loved how much fun everybody seemed to be having, and I loved that I was thinking a lot right up to the final shot; really well done all around.