Saturday, June 30, 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

This film has one of the more unique stories behind its genesis. It was inspired by an ad that first appeared in the back of a magazine, then spread like wildfire across the internet. The ad is written by a person looking for somebody to accompany him traveling through time, who must bring their own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. The ad is only seven sentences long, but it's seven sentences that undoubtedly spark the imagination of anybody who reads it. It just so happened to spark the imaginations of a few indie filmmakers enough to make a full length movie out of it.

In Safety Not Guaranteed a reporter and two interns go in search of the author of the ad. Jeff, the reporter, is actually using the story as an excuse to try to reconnect with an old girlfriend, leaving Darius, one of his interns, to do all of the research on the story herself.

Like any good indie comedy, it shifts between laugh out loud moments and very poignant ones. The author of the ad turns out to be Kenneth, a grocery store clerk, who is actually serious about going back in time. As Darius works to gain his trust, she lets herself buy into his story, but at the same time realizes he might be dangerous. There's also elements of a buddy road trip comedy thrown into the mix as Jeff works to get the other intern he brought along to loosen up and go wild.

At its heart, Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie about characters trying to fix what's wrong in their lives, focusing on either how things are going wrong for them now, or how they messed things up in the past.  The time travel aspect of it is really just a plot device to expose what the characters want to change about how they've lived their lives. It sounds gimmicky, but it's subtle in its execution. The filmmakers never hit you over the head with how Jeff is metaphorically trying to go back in time while Kenneth is trying to do it literally.

As a side note, the author of the original ad has actually come forward and explained himself. It turns out he's not crazy. He was just trying to fill up ad space. You can read his story here.

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