Saturday, November 03, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

hi there

i have a peculiar love, or if you will fascination, with the concept of time travel. i suspect mostly it's due to the fact that it truly is impossible as it's usually presented. time, you see, doesn't exist. it's a man made concept that, like money, has a universal agreement and acceptance. one could not, for instance, type in a date and time on a computer in a DeLorean, because whatever forces could make time travel possible simply would not understand the reference.

that doesn't stop it being interesting, though, in particular when presented in film. from the fun of Back To The Future, the brilliance of Source Code and indeed the sheer audacity of the sadly never finished FlashForward, the concept of time travel seems for some reason to bring out the best in writers.

when i saw this poster, then, i was excited. i wasn't sure exactly what it would be about (bar the obvious), but i was sure i wanted to see it.

as it turns out, it was the last thing i expected it to be - a quirky, romantic comedy. this took me a bit by surprise, it has to be said, but in the end it did not diminish my enjoyment of the film. far from it, really - bar one major gripe, this is one of the most fabulous, enjoyable films i have seen in a while.

and that's your brief review. i will try to avoid them as much as i can, but please consider a big massive *** SPOILER WARNING *** to be in place for the rest of the review.

the film starts with a (best guess) late teens-early twenties girl called Darius giving over much of her life story in response to a basic question in a job interview. this is kind of important for the remainder of the film, as it establishes her character as a reliable, honest narrator. no Fight Club shenanigans here, then.

it soon turns out that Darius really needs a decent job as presently she's an intern with a magazine, and it's a lousy internship. there's a bit of a lucky break, however, as at the behest of the editor (her with the accomodating mouth out of that 24 series), a senior writer, Jeff, is sent to investigate a pecuilar advert (see the poster) to see if it is a hoax or genuine. he gets to take two interns, and thus selects Darius and Arnau, the latter apparently some sort of Indian exchange student.

it does not take them long to track down the man who placed the advert, a supermarket employee called Kenneth. it seems that Kenneth is mostly normal, just convinced that he has the ability to travel in time.

Jeff tries and fails to apply for the job of partner in travel, but Darius has more success.

Jeff then heads off on one of two missions, which is his own variant on time travel - tracking down an old flame via facebook in the hopes of rekindling a purely physical relationship. Jeff is, at least for most of the film, exceptionally shallow and rather cynical.

i seem to be simply recapping the film here. whoops, it won't go on like this for much longer i promise, hang in there.

as Jeff continues his pursuit of an old flame and Arnau mostly plays games on his laptop, Darius wins the trust of Kenneth and becomes his partner in the proposed time travel mission. this leads to a few training scenes, some feelings developing between the two and indeed some sensational moments of "obtaining parts" for time travel.

for the most part Kenneth is presented as a "likeable, innocent and perhaps deluded" character. at no point does the narrative encourage you to believe that Kenneth is actually capable of time travel or just simply disturbed, just leaving him seem, for the want of a better way of saying it, "normal".

that's the case, at least, until we are made aware of an official, presumably government interest in exactly what Kenneth can and cannot do.

is Kenneth really capable of time travel? will Darius follow him no matter what he does? well, you will kind of have to watch the film to find that out. that said, i refer you to the spoiler warning above, and advise you to skip the next paragraph if you haven't seen the film.

the genius of the film, and i think the reason why i love it, is the very subtle moments in the script that lead you to believe in the conclusion of the film, and indeed the comments in the advert. as stressed earlier, that Darius is established as a reliable narrator is important - her slight changes to certain stories and events as the film progresses hints at something. as other characters seem to have slight but important changes in outlook and descriptions it's hard to assume that it is anything but deliberate - those who didn't like the film will probably argue that it's all plot flaws in a badly written film. i disagree.

the major gripe? the other mission that Jeff is on, and the one that somewhat tarnishes the film. Jeff is convinced that Arnau is wasting his life away, and thus is intent on getting him to become "All American" via being drunk and losing his virginity. Arnau is presented as having absolutely no say in this.

Americans, do you wonder why a number around the world "hate" you and your perceived lifestyle? it's because of this sort of thing. at heart Safety Not Guaranteed is a liberal, feel-good romantic comedy, and yet even here we get this idea that every man in the world "wants to drink Bud and get laid by a cheerleader". it is a massive disappointment to find this tired, wrong cliche being presented here, and it is in no way presented with a sense of irony or criticism. it would be wonderful if one day an American film took a non-American and presented them with more authenticity, instead of pushing them as either the enemy or someone that needs to be converted to a certain way of American life.

that said, the disaster of the Jeff-Arnau plot is not enough to condemn this film. far from it. i've watched it twice in the space of a week, and could easily watch it again. the Darius and Kenneth story is just far too interesting and involving to let weaknesses elsewhere in the film distract you.

Safety Not Guaranteed is not likely to be either a big box office smash or an award winner. it is, however, likely to impress most of the people who see it. some will be dismissive, of course, presumably hoping that it was all rather more like Time Cop instead.

it's 90 or so minutes of strangely light-hearted, flawed but overall wonderful fun. it's now out on DVD, Blu Ray and if you are in a country that has it "online rental". i urge you to consider seriously getting it and watching, i really do not think you will be disappointed with, as it were, the time invested.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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