Now showing @ Cornerhouse… Reviewed: Safety Not Guaranteed

By John Paul Shammas

This week at Cornerhouse, the American indie-flick Safety Not Guaranteed hits the screens.

For journalists, searching for a good story can be challenging and often unpredictable, however Safety Not Guaranteed is tirelessly easy-going and mind-numbingly predictable.

This film, which tries far too hard to be as monotone and as whimsical as possible all at the same time, pitches a jaded reporter and his two interns embarking on a magazine feature, which hopes to document a seemingly unhinged man’s attempt to time travel.

It is an unfortunate, mumblecore outing which is coming somewhere in-between the road-movie, the coming-of-age flick and the rom-com genres.

But as Safety Not Guaranteed attempts to guise itself as something fresh, fun and bold, it succumbs to the fear that it may lose the audience early on, and retreats into ABC storytelling. 

And what is most frustrating is that the whole thing seems like wasting one big opportunity. 

Why set out with an original concept and waste it away in fear that the lowest common denominator might not get the punchline?

The reality of the whole situation is also a big problem, and that’s not even the bit to do with time travel.

We are told that our lead, played by Aubrey Plaza, is this awkward aspiring reporter who happens to be a bit awkward, a bit of an outcast and never really had any friends in school. 

The believability of that plummets early on however, mostly because one, she’s not awkward, and is actually very funny and at ease with herself, and secondly, she looks like an American Apparel model.

Meanwhile, Jeff, the head reporter in the troupe played by Jake Johnson (who many viewers will recognise from the worst show on television, New Girl) is in his comfort zone here, turning in a numbingly boring performance.

Whilst Safety Not Guaranteed attempts to be a vehicle for good people to express their discontent at the modern world and express a desire to find something that really connects to them, we ironically are served up by director Colin Trevorrow a formulaic journey intent on delivering a grey, bland, catch-all experience. 

It is fine that the mumblecore-scene has its roots in Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused and his subsequent work, but his legacy of low budget, low-fi American independent cinema deserves to be taken on by much braver voices than this.

Picture courtesy of FilmDistrict via YouTube, with thanks.

For more on this story and many others, follow Mancunian Matters on Twitter and Facebook.

Related Articles