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kilowog [Film Festival 01.27.12] comedy

Year: 2012
Directors: Colin Trevorrow
Writers: Derek Connolly
IMDB: link
Trailer: N/A
Review by: kilowog
Rating: 9 out of 10

There were few films at this year's Sundance Film Festival anticipated more greatly than Colin Trevorrow's directorial debut, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. Billed as a quick-witted, sci-fi romanticist comedy shepherded by indie darlings the Duplass Brothers, the proof proved to be in the pudding. Providing a briskly entertaining adventure that will leave you guessing just where the story is going, Trevorrow and writer, Derek Connolly stand to have a long careers ahead of themselves built on the back of a breakout performance by the film's lead and "PARKS & RECREATIONS" star Aubrey Plaza.

Inspired by a true-to-life backpage magazine ad requesting a partner for a "time travel" adventure with the promise that one's safety was not guaranteed, the film translates the request into a journalistic mission led by Seattle Magazine writer Jeff (played by TV's "NEW GIRL" star, Jake Johnson). After pitching the ad in a staff meeting to his editor (Mary-Lynn Rajskub), he conscripts 'the lesbian' aka 'Darius' (Plaza) and her intern colleague Arnau (Karan Soni) to accompany him on the trip to discover the man and the story behind the ad.

As the three head up the coast, they quickly track down the author, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), but when Jeff is outright rejected by Kenneth as a co-pilot in his time machine, it's up to the snark-aholic Darius to step up to the plate and woo the incredibly cryptic and distrusting conspiracy theorist so they can nail the story. Luckily for Darius she's got just the right amount of awkwardness and uncertainty that appeals to Kenneth and the two form a bond over their shared pains despite the roughly 15 years age difference between them. Never intentional, a sense of romanticism grows between the two while Jeff and Arnau take a backseat to their relationship to form their own bond as friends, something that neither of them really have despite Jeff's own sense of immense bravado and dude-like personality.

The details behind Kenneth's plans for time travel remain sparse so as to alleviate suspicions by those who are "following him," and it's only when his trust of Darius grows that we are clued in and begin to question: can Kenneth actually time travel?

Fueled by a incredibly high concept, Trevorrow knows just when to play it for laughs and when to play for sentimentality; using time travel as an avenue for coping with loss both real and possibly imagined. Having experienced the death of her mother at a young age, Darius has been rudderless for some time and it's only with her meeting of Kenneth that she realizes that there may be a way back from it all. Played with aplomb, Plaza takes her permanent 'snark' personality and adjusts it to pitch perfect level of sincerity and tenderness; concentrating on Kenneth's bruised heart in concert with her own instead of the tin foil hat that so many others are quick to see first.

Sitting on a sub-million dollar budget, the fine camera work captures the majestic northwest ocean views perfectly and creates an emotional landscape that resonates and opens our mind to the idea that even though we can't turn back time, wouldn't it be really cool if we could?

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