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Safety Not Guaranteed: SXSW Reviews

Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed is a feel-good comedy about a group of misfits looking for love and acceptance. The film uses a touch of movie magic to form an interesting new twist on the same old romantic comedies seen time and again. With a fantastic all-star cast to boot, this was one of the festival’s greatest gems.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an underappreciated intern at a local magazine. At a meeting, reporter Jeff (New Girl’s Jake Johnson) introduces an article he’d like to research: a man who put out an ad looking for a companion during his time travels. Darius, who lost her mother at an early age, instantly volunteers. She, Jeff and co-intern Arnau (Karan Soni) go on a road trip to find the man behind the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Darius becomes heavily involved in the research and is eventually tested and chosen by Kenneth to be his companion. Meanwhile, Jeff’s real intentions for the trip are revealed to be visiting an old girlfriend, Liz (Jenica Bergere), whom he reluctantly reconnects with.

One of the best aspects of this film is its almost Escape To Witch Mountain quality to it. It is always lightweight and fun and the journey is a sort of unforgettable adventure. It is mysterious and full of suspense but in its core it is just a simple, effective love story. The themes of growing older and hope are also explored beautifully here.

The performances in this film are uniquely memorable. While each actor is specifically known to audiences by a certain type of character, they each branch out with performances that bring something new and interesting to what they have been known for. Aubrey Plaza’s versatility is proven as she considerably tones down her trademark deadpan and moves in a more serious though still quirky direction. Jake Johnson, best known as lost but sweet Nick, also moves in a different direction turning into the bad guy of sorts while always maintaining a hidden heart of gold.

The always fantastic Mark Duplass is his lovable self once again in this film but his character may be the most problematic in development. The main problem with Kenneth’s believability is his motivation. It is revealed that he has a fake ear which causes him to feel like an outsider and thus is the indirect cause for his weird time traveling project. But the problem with the ear is twofold. On the one hand, the prosthetic is so bad that it is distracting yet doesn’t get explained until halfway through the film. And on the other, while it’s certainly an acceptable flaw to make someone self-conscious, it doesn’t seem big enough to explain what has driven Kenneth so far in the uncontrollably crazy direction. The idea isn’t bad just developed a tad unrealistically.

Overall, fans of these actors will in no way be disappointed. The film has a great mix of laughs and quirky sci fi to please just about every comedy fan out there. It’s a film that doesn’t shy away from going where it needs to even if the result is a bit farfetched. Don’t hesitate to catch it when it lands in theaters on June 8th.

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