Monday, August 13, 2012

Is This Movie About a Time-Traveler/Eccentric Bad?

257) Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) Dir: Colin Trevorrow Date Released: June 8, 2012 Date Seen: August 10, 2012 Rating: 2.25/5

I like some of the performances in this film but its takeaway message/big ideas stink. I really resent this micro-trend in indie dramas where an eccentric, free-thinking loner is ostracized just because he's eccentric and thinks freely. I'm not kidding: Safety Not Guaranteed is a very specific kind of un-imaginative science fiction. It's the kind that doesn't deserve to be called, as Harlan Ellison once re-christened science fiction genre, "speculative fiction." Speculation implies curiosity and a sense of wonder, not the trite sense of entitlement that characterizes Mark Duplass's central protagonist. Duplass plays Kenneth, a man that puts an ad (pictured to the right) in a local newspaper  that attracts the attention of a snotty reporter and his two socially awkward interns. Aubrey Plaza is Darius, one of those two interns, specifically the one that discovers what ostensibly makes Kenneth so very special. 

Ugh, give me a second while I puke.

Look, the crux of Safety Not Guaranteed is discovering whether or not Kenneth, like 90% of the sociopathic but "special" subjects of films like K-PAX and Special, is actually a special, special nice, nice guy that is ahead of his time (haw!), or just a crazy, delusional loner dude. If you don't yet know what Kenneth really is, might I suggest giving up on cinema and then life? For serious, it's like trying to figure out the answer to the rhetorical questions posed in tabloid-worthy headlines: did Hitler kill the Jews? Will there be weather tomorrow? Is that a boner or is this writer just super-happy to see you and nobody else but you? Who knows?!

What I'm trying to say is: there's no question that Safety Not Guaranteed's creators pose that they don't smugly answer. So here, I'm going to help you guys out: 

Q: Is the guy next-door crazy or a super-special guy?
A: Super-special guy. Doy.

Q: Why is he super and/or special?
A: Because he just doesn't fit in, a point explained to Darius in almost as many words by Kenneth's old high school flame.

Q: But how does being ostracized make Kenneth necessarily special?
A: Shut up, that's why.

Q: Do any of these characters learn something about themselves that can't be taught via Fortune Cookie?
A: Hell no. Better yet, there's a song number performed on a zither that explains why being a loner and an outsider is a sign of super-special-ness.

Q: Is there seriously a zither song?
A: Uh yuh.

Q: Is the time machine cool, at least?
A: As cool as a motherfucking hydrofoil gets (ie: eh, not so much)!

Q: Why do you hate joy and sunshine time-traveling, special outsider-types?
A: Because somebody stole my rubber duck when I was a wee man...

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