Ex­quis­ite tim­ing

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILMREVIEWS - TARA BRADY

SAFETY NOT GUAR­AN­TEED ★★★★

Di­rected by Colin Trevor­row. Star­ring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Du­plass, Jake John­son, Kris­ten Bell, Karan Soni, Mary Lynn Ra­jskub, Jenica Berg­ere, Jeff Gar­lin Club, IFI, Dublin, 86 min

A lo-fi, de­fi­antly in­die-sch­mindie, sci-fi rom­com from Sun­dance cen­tral – win­ner of the Waldo Salt Screen­writ­ing Award, no less – Safety Not Guar­an­teed be­gan life as a comic ad in the satir­i­cal mag­a­zine Back­woods.

The orig­i­nal word­ing is pre­served here: “Wanted: Some­body to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. PO Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid af­ter we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guar­an­teed. I have only done this once be­fore.”

Parks and Recre­ation’s Aubrey Plaza is su­perbly dead­pan as a mag­a­zine in­tern sent out with cyn­i­cal el­der re­porter Jeff ( New Girl’s Jake John­son) and stu­dious sci­ence ma­jor Ar­nau (Karan Soni) to find the per­son or per­sons who placed the ad­ver­tise­ment. Some­what in­evitably, they turn out to be played by Mark Du­plass in one of that ac­tor’s most like­able roles.

While un­der­cover, our spiky young hero­ine dis­cov­ers that the en­tire barmy ven­ture is mo­ti­vated by lost love. It does not take long for her to go soft on her sub­ject. Un­hap­pily, how­ever, Mr Du­plass has not been en­tirely truth­ful and seems un­able or un­will­ing to pro­duce any­thing re­motely sci­en­tific to back up his claims. Is he hold­ing out or just plain crazy?

New­comer Derek Con­nolly’s nifty screen­play keeps us guess­ing un­til the fi­nal reel. The small­ness of the bud­get is dis­guised by Ben­jamin Kasulke tidy dig­i­tal DOP work and a con­stel­la­tion of hip cameos –( 24’ s Mary Lynn Ra­jskub, Curb Your En­thu­si­asm’s Jeff Gar­lin, Veron­ica Mars’ Kris­ten Bell).

Con­cep­tu­ally, the re­sults are not quite up there with Primer or Looper, but Colin Trevor­row’s win­ning de­but fea­ture cer­tainly mer­its a cosy spot be­tween Mid­night in Paris and An­other Earth. Cute.

Mark Du­plass and Aubrey Plaza in Safety Not Guar­an­teed

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