Safety Not Guaranteed (12/12/12)

Safety Not GuaranteedMovie Two Hundred Seventy Eight

In Safety Not Guaranteed, three reports investigate a classified ad requesting help to go back in time.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is interning at a Seattle magazine and when one of the editors, Jeff (Jake Johnson), finds a strange ad asking for someone to travel back in time with him, he wants to write a story about guy that placed the ad. Darius and Jeff also take along Arnau (Karan Soni), another intern and head off to Ocean View in search for the purported time traveler. They discover that Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) is behind the ad and Darius, bored with her life and hoping there’s a shred of truth to Kenneth’s claim, hopes to go back in time and prevent her mother’s death.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie I was expecting to enjoy but not be totally enamored with. Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass are kind of hit or miss with me, but I like Jake Johnson so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cast, or the plot. It’s safe to say that Safety Not Guaranteed blew my expectations away and it impressed the hell out of me. It may even be one of the year’s better films.

Aubrey Plaza is not known for her dramatic acting, in fact, all of the actors are probably better known for comedic roles, but Plaza in particular impresses in Safety Not Guaranteed. There are plenty of funny moments in the film, but the story is actually more personal and touching than it lets on. The setup makes it seem like we are supposed to be pointing and laughing at Kenneth for being weird and believing he can actually travel through time – and I certainly won’t spoil anything – but we quickly stop making fun of Kenneth and he becomes a sympathetic character.

In the end, Safety Not Guaranteed is not about time travel, it’s about not living with regrets. All the characters have some moment of self-discovery that is infinitely more important to the story than whether or not Kenneth actually knows what he is doing regarding his time machine. Existentialism was not something I was expecting to find from a quirky indie dramedy, but damned if it doesn’t do it well. Safety Not Guaranteed surprised me and for that reason, I encourage everyone to see it for themselves, you may be surprised too.

I give it 4 Kenneth’s sweet Datsun out of 5.

*sorry if you got notified of this and then it disappeared, I scheduled it incorrectly*

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Jeff, Who Lives At Home (7/3/12)

Jeff, Who Lives At HomeMovie One Hundred Fifty Four

Jeff, Who Lives At Home is the story of a man who is looking for signs of what his life was destined for.

The opening scene has Jeff (Jason Segel), a seemingly ambitionless thirty year old living at home, talking into a tape recorder detailing the movie Signs and how he really thinks everyone has signs in their life pointing them to their destiny. Jeff answers a (seemingly) wrong number from a man asking for “Kevin” and Jeff takes this as a sign that he needs to find Kevin. His mother, Sharon (Susan Sarandon), calls from work and tells Jeff the one thing she wants for her birthday is for him to fix a slat on the pantry door. Jeff ventures out into the world to help his mom but his real goal is to find Kevin. He runs into his older brother, Pat (Ed Helms), a seemingly successful married man, whose life is actually in ruin and Jeff follows his signs to his real destiny.

I really want to praise Jeff, Who Lives at Home because it is a film with so much heart but unfortunately the entire film I was so incredibly distracted by the camerawork. If you read my review of Hunger Games, you may recall that I find excessive use of shakycam to be totally superfluous and I can’t stand it. Unfortunately, for seemingly no reason at all, Jeff, Who Lives at Home is shot entirely in this fashion, which may not be distracting on its own if it wasn’t coupled with zooming every 5-10 seconds. Literally that often, I wish I was being hyperbolic. Because of this I couldn’t give my full attention to liking the characters and their personal motives for their lives.

The characters here are actually quite well-written and I think we all know people like Jeff, people that we may look down but have more heart than anyone around them. Jason Segel plays this role perfectly and I was actually reminded a lot of his role as Nick in TV’s Freaks and Geeks. I also adore Judy Greer, who plays Pat’s wife fed up at Pat’s insistence that buying himself a Porsche is more important than buying a house.

Commonly categorized as “mumblecore” Jeff, Who Lives at Home seems like the Duplass brothers wanted to branch out and have something larger but then held back. The story is there, the story works really well, actually. Other than my abhorrence of the way the film was shot, I have few complaints looking back on Jeff, Who Lives at Home and I would still recommend it.

I give it 3 ketchup streams out of 5.

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