Safety Not Guaranteed: A grocery clerk (Mark Duplass) posts a classified ad for an assistant time traveler position drawing the interest of a lovelorn journalist (Jake M. Johnson) who uses a sardonic co-worker (Aubrey Plaza) to gain the would be time travelers confidence. Despite the presence of Jeff, Who Lives at Home director Duplass, this film shares little with his low-fi, emotional fraught movies. Directed by Colin Trevorrow is more in the vein of a Splash or Phenomenon with a much lower budget and but just as much heart. It’s a one of those movies that subtlety explores relationships while also brushing up against the fantastic. Duplass is very good as a breezy but complicated everyman and Plaza is incredibly charming, especially when her trademark sarcasm cracks to reveal something vulnerable underneath. Johnson is also affecting as a man just old enough to start really regretting the callousness of his twenties. It’s easy to see how this film might be insufferable to people of a certain age, but for folk who came of age just as the economy started to fall apart there’s something about this film’s powerful themes of loss and yearning for escape that will be deeply resonant. Also starring Karan Soni, Jeff Carlin and Mary Lynn Rajskub.
Special features: Three featurettes.
Ruby Sparks: A young novelist (Paul Dano) seems to write his perfect woman (Zoe Kazan) into being. Apparently, this is winsome indie movie release week as this film is also a vaguely fantastic character piece. The film, directed by Jonathan Dayton and written by Kazan, deals with the problem of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl, a character type first identified in Cameron Crowe’s weak Elizabethtown but applicable to Kate Hudson’s character in his Almost Famous, Zooey Deschanel’s character in (500) Days of Summer and Natalie Portman’s character in Garden State. The MPDG is usually a young, effervescent woman inexplicably attracted to lame, emotional stunned men with little going for other than their movie star good looks. It’s an interesting choice to make the MPDG an acknowledged part of the text but ultimately this film falls prey to the same trap that all MPDG films fall into, it focuses on the feelings the archetype rouses in the male character while presenting the female character as a cypher on which male expectation and fantasy are projected onto. Simply underlining the sexism inherit to that conceit doesn’t nullify it. Also starring Annette Bening, Elliot Gould and Antonio Banderas as a character named Mort.
Special features: Five featurettes.
Mario McKellop has written about movies for Examiner for three years and can be reached directly at email@example.com