Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) – 4/5

Pretty good little indie film with a quirky concept that is handled in a unique and unexpectedly genuine manner despite how unwatchable the various trailers for it would have you think it is. And Aubrey Plaza isn’t terrible here, shockingly, despite having the personality of wooden beam and looking like a weird human/alien hybrid. There’s something about her eyes that’s not quite right, not quite human. Spooky.

The acting is really great here, though, from just about everyone, especially the guy who plays the cocky arrogant jerk, Jake M. Johnson. Not sure who he is or where he came from, but he’s great, just great. As is Mark Duplass, though he isn’t required to do a whole lot outside of being deathly serious about everything. Lighten up, dude, you’re about to travel through time! Or are you? Ohh, mystery.

I think the great acting on display here is mostly due to some excellent direction; the film is not only well shot and decently paced, but the filmmakers involved clearly know how to bring the most out of their actors. Heck, Aubrey Plaza’s performance alone is an excellent example of this. The girl actually had me fooled into thinking she was human at times, with actual feelings and stuff, which is quite the achievement for someone with the emotional capacity of a piece of furniture.

Unnecessary cruelty aside, the story is decent. Not everything works as well as it could have; the whole **SPOILERS** romance between Plaza and Duplass felt rushed and unconvincing, especially given that the guy seems completely out of his mind for most of the film, almost violently so at times. **END SPOILERS** There’s also this subtle undercurrent of darkness throughout the film that could have been explored more. You get brief senses of it here and there, but never enough to grab on to, and it’s unsatisfying. I understand that the film is a comedy and all that, but it could just as easily, and, in my opinion, more interestingly, have been something even better had they decided to indulge in this darkness. But to each his own, I guess.

Overall, I liked the film. It’s interesting and unusual and much richer and deeper than I was expecting, namely thanks to the great acting/character development on display. The story isn’t perfect, and leaves a few more loose threads hanging than I would have liked, but it’s a good, unusual film when all is said and done. And what an interesting ending. Not your typical indie film. And Aubrey Plaza didn’t suck!

Worth watching.

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