CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Film Review: ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ with Aubrey Plaza is Delightful Journey
CHICAGO – I love “Safety Not Guaranteed.” It reminds me of films of my youth – the sci-fi/dramedy hits of directors like Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, and Steven Spielberg – that gifted viewers with wonderful characters with which we could identify. The set-up may be ridiculous but as long as we feel grounded with the people within it, we’ll go along with anything. This is something that’s been lost over the years and writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow have found in their delicate, lovely film.
One of the reasons that “Safety Not Guaranteed” is so delightful is that the set-up is borderline ludicrous. It’s a tightrope act. When one thinks of the myriad of ways a film like this one could have gone wrong, it makes the fact that it doesn’t that much more admirable. In the hands of so many other filmmakers and with other casts, this could have been generic mocking of the dreams of outsiders or, even worse, a wacky slapstick comedy about time travel. Instead it’s a character-driven piece about regret and true partnership – our basic, primal need for someone to take the journey with us even if safety is not guaranteed.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Safety Not Guaranteed” in our reviews section.|
It starts with a classified ad – “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 have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.” An egocentric magazine writer named Jeff (Jake Johnson of “New Girl”) thinks the ad could make an interesting starting point for a story and brings along two interns – Darius (Aubrey Plaza of “Parks and Recreation”) and Arnau (Karan Soni). What is this guy all about? Is he just another weirdo? Or could he be the kind of eccentric that magazine articles love to profile?
He turns out to be both and neither. The team goes to Ocean View, Washington to find a grocery clerk named Kenneth (Mark Duplass, who also stars in this week’s “Your Sister’s Sister”), a guy who clearly has a unique view of the world but also isn’t your typical movie wacko. Kenneth firmly believes in what he’s planning to the point that he’s willing to break into a local laboratory for the parts he needs. After an abrasive encounter with Jeff, Darius goes in for the story and ends up getting closer and closer to this man. Like Kenneth, Darius has regret over a major incident in her past. What if you COULD go back and correct the day that you feel everything changed? Would you take that trip? Wouldn’t you at least go along for the ride with the guy who thinks it’s possible?
Safety Not Guaranteed
Photo credit: Film District