About every three or four months I’m witness to a movie that should be something seriously brilliant. A wonderful imaginative idea, a writer willing to take chances, and a perfectly fine cast of fleshed out characters. Unfortunately, said type of movie comes along once in a blue moon in today’s current cinema landscape. Safety Not Guaranteed is just that type of movie with an absurd about of wasted potential. Let’s be clear, Safety is by no means a mess of a film. It’s admirable and actually shows moments of brilliance at times. But there is really nothing that frustrates me more than a film that isn’t fully developed.
Aubrey Plaza stars as Darius, an intern at a magazine who gets dragged along to work on a piece about a man who writes an ad requesting partners to go back in time with. He claims to have only done this once before. These partners are to bring their own weapons and of course, safety is not guaranteed. Darius, along with two other employees, travel to this guy’s hometown where they find an eccentric guy whose life seems to have been a series of regrets.
Safety Not Guaranteed so very badly wants to be a film that changes people’s ideas of life. It wants to make people believe in magic, in the good things in the world. It wants people to see the beauty and simplicity in what the mind can do when, at all costs, the rest of the world is against it. It wants us to overcome cynicism and fully understand just how we can do this. It want us to get over ourselves. The end result is about half way there.
The film starts with Darius in an interview where the employer asks her, “Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty for customer service.” Darius’ response is ,”No.” Is it an act of great screenwriting that the end of the film is the dichotomy of that scene by the man who placed the ad claiming that he needs someone to share his life with? Or is it sloppy character development? I believe the writer wants the viewer, by the end of the film, to realize we have been taken from something so blaze and cynical as a job interview to something so magical. The problem is, I’m sure most people aren’t quite getting there, which is entirely the fault of the film.
Safety Not Guaranteed has the base for something extremely smart and well done, but there is too much amateur filmmaking here. Other than the climax, which literally gave me chills, there are too many moments of dialogue that don’t make sense. There are a few too many camera angles and direction that look like they were made by an unsure film student. And truthfully, Aubrey Plaza is a little too much to digest in anything other than a supporting role. That said, it’s easy to see the seeds of genius here. Hopefully next time around, that potential will be seen all the way through.