Safety Not Guaranteed

This is not a time travel movie in the way Another Earth or Melancholia  aren’t science fiction classics about the existence of a dual Earth. Time travel, real or imagined, is both metaphor and macguffin to allow the story to occur. And it is an amusing and silly story that manages to take an absurd idea and drop it into a very real context.

The film has the kind of energy and rhythm that 500 Days of Summer (but less polished) or even The Giant Mechanical Man brought to bear; a hyper-real, story of modern life. But, much like its characters, this movie never quite reaches its potential, though it tries. It comes darned close, but it never really fully evolves. Nor does it manage to answer or even ask the most important question of the set-up.

The disadvantage of the hyper-real, unscripted-feel approach is that the film-maker is very much at the mercy of the energy of the actors. Stark realism leaves little to hide behind. This made Johnson, now that he’s so well known in New Girl, a bit of a distraction for me. Even though the movie was written for Aubrey Plaza (Scott Pilgrim), she wasn’t the person I immediately recognized and focused on. Her energy, by design, is lower at the start so she became over-shadowed by Johnson even though it is clearly her story. Duplass, by contrast, rides a scary line between believable and ridiculous, ultimately coming down on the sympathetic side of the fence, but only barely. The rest of the supporting cast perform admirably if not memorably. The ensemble all comes together nicely, but with very raw edges.

Perhaps I’m a victim of all the hype that surrounded the film? Perhaps I just wanted more? I can say I had fun and it was engaging, it just didn’t blow my socks off the way I had wanted.

Trevorrow definitely displays some film-making talent here. The ability to tell a story and the eye to editing and construction that keep you involved are solidly evident. If some of the behind-the-scenes discussions are true, he is also very resourceful and passionate. His next efforts will really tell the tale of his potential. In the meantime, you get to see a peek of what he may be capable of and be entertained in the process.

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