You know, January is always a great month for movies. Awards season is upon us. The big contenders are being released. The BAFTAs, Golden Globes, and SAGs are being handed out. And it all builds to a climax with The Oscars - the award season's version of an orgasm - on February 24.
Safety Not Guaranteed kicks off 2013 on a high note, and I would love to see it recognised in some way. It won the screenwriting award at Sundance and was nominated for many other awards. It's a quirky, sweet natured, highly original indie comedy. It's not only a real coup for PIAF but the warmest, most enjoyable film of their season. The story is inspired by the following classified ad that ran in a US rag:
_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've only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. _
The ad went viral, became a meme and was featured on talk shows everywhere.
Writer Derek Connolly uses it as a starting point for this loopy story that blends rom-com and time travel and delivers in both universes. Connolly wrote it for rising star Aubrey Plaza (who is outstanding in the TV sitcom Parks and Recreation), and it's great to see her nail her first big-screen lead role with a warm, funny performance. It's a star-making turn. She probably won't win any big acting awards, but she's certainly worthy.
The ad piques the interest of lazy reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson). He takes two interns - the smart, cynical and awkward Darius (Plaza) and the virginal geek Arnau (Karan Soni) - to find the oddball who wrote it. They get the story of a lifetime in Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a Grade-A nutter who's amassing parts for his time-travel machine.
Darius poses as a potential candidate and gets close to Kenneth, who she comes to suspect may not be so nutty after all, especially as a few Men in Black types are on his tail. To say more would spoil the fun ahead, for much of Safety Not Guaranteed hinges on the question of Kenneth's state of mind - is he a lunatic or a time-lord? - as it does on Darius' escalating fondness for him.
That gives the film plenty of dramatic and romantic tension. And while Darius has her reasons for being open to time travel with Kenneth, watching the two bond over the possibility of healing old wounds is a thing of beauty.
Indeed, Safety Not Guaranteed is all about righting past wrongs, and it tackles that conundrum with delicacy, humour and plenty of heart. Jeff is keen on rekindling a relationship with a high school sweetheart (Jenica Bergere), as if wanting to go back in time himself. And Arnau is a lovable geek who gets his time to shine.
Mostly, however, the film rests on the performances of Plaza and Duplass, and they find the lovable hearts of the oddball outsiders who find each other. Both nail difficult characters and convince us to tag along with their crazy adventure, right until the magnificent, ingenious final scene, which will leave you on cloud nine.
Don't miss this one. It's worth time travelling to see.