Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Safety Not Guaranteed

Year 7, Day 245 - 9/2/15 - Movie #2,137

BEFORE: Self-doubt is creeping into my chain again - I made the decision to put off most of the time-travel related films until next year, but the actor linking clearly indicates that this film should go here.  Jake Johnson carries over from "Let's Be Cops", and this film provides a crucial link back to my Back to School programming.  It all hinges on whether time travel really takes place in this film, because I'm really not sure - I know the concept of time travel is a plot point here, but I'm not sure whether the built device is a success or a failure.  Not that all of the time travel films HAVE to be together, but I feel like if there's real time travel here, then I've failed just a bit in my planning.  But in my defense, I try very hard to not know what's going to happen in a film beforehand, so, really, it's not my fault.

THE PLOT: Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Happy Accidents" (Movie #1,649)

AFTER: Well, that's really the whole point of this film - did this guy really build a time machine, or was he just delusional?  And I can't really talk about the answer, simply because that's the whole point of the film.  This duality has played out before, in films like "Happy Accidents", where other people are never sure if someone who claims to be a time-traveler is just off his meds or something.

It's always these people on the spectrum, right?  The ones who give nerds a bad name, just because we're all insular and not very outgoing.  Like none of us know the difference between sci-fi and reality, so naturally we all fantasize about time-travel so much that we can't accept that it's impossible, according to the physical laws of the universe.

Whether our nerd in question here has built a working time machine or not, and I guess it doesn't really matter as long as he believes he has, here it's not about the destination, it's about the journey.  What would someone who expects to be going on a trip across space-time do in preparation?  Here he places a classified ad looking for a companion, someone good with weapons or willing to be trained, because he figures that the journey will be a dangerous one.

But, what's REALLY going on here?  Whether or not actual time-travel takes place (and I'm not saying it does, and I'm not saying it doesn't) are we looking at more of a metaphorical journey, big picture-wise?  What's his real motivation for wanting to go back in time, or believing that he can?  Why does he want to go back in time and not forward?  Is he focused on past events that he wants to change, or is he just generally nostalgic?

I think we have to look at the foil characters to gain some insight - we're presented with a magazine writer who has his own agenda, he takes the opportunity to track down an ex-girlfriend who lives in the same area, and attempt to rebuild an old connection.  He's doing his own form of time-traveling, in his own way, trying to relive, or at least reconnect with, his own past.  Which is more possible, although largely symbolic - but you do connect with your past self every time you go back to your home town, or pass that restaurant where you went on a first date with your spouse, even if it's a dang Starbucks now.

There really was a classified ad in 1997 seeking a time-travel companion, which was printed in Backwoods Home Magazine.  However, it was written by an employee of the magazine, as a space filler on the classifieds page.  But with the internet, the ad got shared and piqued people's curiosity, and from that, this screenplay was born.

But still, there's that old bugaboo, one of my constant pet peeves, where a film spends more time talking about it than being about it.  That's great on the festival circuit, and I have a feeling this film did really well there, but out in the marketplace, I expect more action, for things to start happening a lot sooner.  But by delaying the reveal to the end of the film, it cleverly allows for a sidestep around my usual complaints about messing with the time/space continuum - it's a very sneaky way to silence any nitpicking.

Also starring Aubrey Plaza (last heard in "Monsters University"), Mark Duplass (last seen in "Zero Dark Thirty"), Karan Soni, Kristen Bell (last heard in "Frozen"), Mary Lynn Rajskub (last seen in "Julie & Julia"), Jeff Garlin (last seen in "Fun with Dick and Jane")

RATING:  5 out of 10 cans of soup

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