Safety Not Guaranteed

Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) and  Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) in a still frame from Safety Not Guaranteed

MADRID, 1615 — Following up on his publication of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha (The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha) Part 1, 10 years ago, today Miguel de Cervantes published the 2nd and final part of his novel. iRez believes that this will become a novel for the ages, and that the act of “tilting at windmills” made popular by Cervantes today, will recur across future times and places.

We imagine that three and a half centuries from now, say in 1965, Dale Wasserman might write his own play, Man of La Mancha, about Cervantes and his famous character. Eight years after that, perhaps in 1973 Peter Shaffer will write a play called Equus about Alan Strang, a young boy who, depending on your point of view, will have almost no functioning life at all, or one of the richest lives we pathetic mortals can dare to imagine. And it could be that another 14 years after that, in 1987, David Wilson will open The Museum of Jurassic Technology in a place called “Culver City, California.” Of such a curious “museum” we might speculate that some visitors will question the factualness of the exhibits; but that none who grasp its poetry will question the museum’s truth.

And perhaps four-hundred years from now, around 2012, screenwriter Derek Connolly will give us Kenneth Calloway, a man more alive in his delusions than so many of we “real” people in our banality.
 

Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) and  Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) in a still frame from Safety Not Guaranteed

1605 – 1615 – 1965 – 1973 – 1987 – 2012
Safety Not Guaranteed made me laugh. It made me cry. In fact, this film made me laugh more than it made me cry, yet in the end it is not the absurdity nor the humor that resonates with me as I leave the theater, but the intensity of Kenneth Calloway’s “impossible dream.” Calloway is Quixote, and Cervantes, and Strang. Calloway’s invention is an exhibit at the Museum of Jurassic Technology. It’s easy to believe that you have a better grasp on “reality” than Calloway does, but it is difficult to argue that you have ever been as passionately alive as he is nearly every waking moment. For most of us a grocery store job represents mind-numbing servitude, yet for Calloway it is a touchstone on his journey to a higher calling, to a higher spiritual quest.

Calloway’s life has purpose and meaning.

How many of us are even on a spiritual quest?

This is a film with no “bad guys.” Safety Not Guaranteed avoids that contrivance by making everyone human.

The pretty, privileged girl who the misfit had a crush on turns out to be a decent person.

The Seattle Magazine writer, Jeff Schwensen, who turns the Calloway story over to intern Darius Britt while he pursues his own time travel to think once more about that amazing first girl and his life that might have been, is pathetic and endearing, but not callous or deeply shallow.

Against Robin Williams’ eccentric character in The Fisher King, Jeff Bridges’ own troubled character becomes the grounded one. And in Safety Not Guaranteed, against the strange world of Kenneth Calloway, misfit Darius Britt finds clarity and meaning, a sense of being and a sense of purpose. She is the unique persona capable of and willing to follow Calloway wherever his story may lead. Should her future journalism career continue and flourish, perhaps this adventure will have been the one moment that made her future possible.

In this quest for time machines, I might argue that it is reporter Schwensen who finds the “real” time machine in his still magnificent ex-girlfriend, yet he is utterly unable to change the past. Through belief, or through the suspension of disbelief, Britt and Calloway’s “fake” time machine could be the real change that makes her entire future possible.
 

S A F E T Y . N O T . G U A R A N T E E D


Darius BrittAubrey Plaza
Kenneth CallowayMark Duplass
Jeff SchwensenJake M. Johnson
ArnauKaran Soni

DirectorColin Trevorrow
WriterDerek Connolly

Safety Not Guaranteed / Website
Safety Not Guaranteed / IMDB
Safety Not Guaranteed / Wikipedia

Don Quixote / Wikipedia
Man of La Mancha / Wikipedia
Equus / Wikipedia
Museum of Jurassic Technology / Wikipedia

 

The mission of each true knight, his duty — nay — his privilege…
To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go.
To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star.

— Mitch Leigh

My desire might be to make this boy an ardent husband—a caring citizen—a worshipper of abstract and unifying God. My achievement, however, is more likely to make a ghost! Let me tell you exactly what I’m going to do to him!

I’ll heal the rash on his body. I’ll erase the welts cut into his mind by flying manes. When that’s done, I’ll set him on a nice mini-scooter and send him puttering off into the Normal world where animals are treated properly: made extinct, or put into servitude, or tethered all their lives in dim light, just to feed it! I’ll give him the good Normal world where we’re tethered beside them—blinking our nights away in a non-stop drench of cathode-ray over our shriveling heads! I’ll take away his Field of Ha-Ha, and give him Normal places for his ecstasy—multi-lane highways driven through the guts of cities, extinguishing Place altogether, even the idea of Place! He’ll trot on his metal pony tamely through the concrete evening—and one thing I promise you:

He will never touch hide again. With any luck his private parts will come to feel as plastic to him as the products of the factory to which he will almost certainly be sent. Who knows? He may even come to find sex funny. Smirky funny. Bit of grunt funny. Trampled and furtive and entirely in control. Hopefully, he’ll feel nothing at his fork but Approved Flesh. I doubt, however, with much passion! Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.

You won’t gallop anymore, Alan. Horses will be quite safe. You’ll save your pennies every week, till you can change that scooter in for a car, and put the odd 50p on the gee-gees, quite forgetting that they were ever anything more to you than bearers of little profits and little losses. You will, however, be without pain. More or less completely without pain.

— Peter Shaffer

…guided along as it were
a chain of flowers into
the mysteries of life.

— MJT

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Categories: Cinema

Author:Vanessa Anne Blaylock

As a Virtual Public Artist my work invites virtual communities to express their identity, explore their culture, and demand their civil rights.

One Comment on “Safety Not Guaranteed”

  1. Saturday, 21 July 2012 at 03:20 UTC #

    Hi, sorry for commenting on my own post, hahaha, but I was thinking about my last paragraph:

    In this quest for time machines, I might argue that it is reporter Schwensen who finds the “real” time machine in his still magnificent ex-girlfriend, yet he is utterly unable to change the past. Through belief, or through the suspension of disbelief, Britt and Calloway’s “fake” time machine could be the real change that makes her entire future possible.

    Schwensen finds a “real” time machine, but doesn’t believe in it, and changes nothing. Britt finds a “fake” time machine, but is willing to believe, and changes everything.

    In a way, this is the parable of the emperor’s new clothes… finally gotten right.

    In the normal telling, everyone deludes themselves into believing they see the emperor’s invisible, fake clothes, except the little kid, so honest he sees the king as naked.

    That’s a great parable for a different world… but it’s not the parable we in contemporary culture need. We are far too willing to see every dreamer as meaningless and naked…

    The truth is… the most courageous act in our world, is to believe, even though you know the emperor might be naked and you might be a fool, but you’re willing to go for it, you’re willing to believe anyway. That’s why Britt & Calloway are heroes, and Schwensen is a tragic failure.

%d bloggers like this: