That tells you what I know – on July 4 I entered the Esquire Theatre thinking that when I sat in a dark room to watch Safety Not Guaranteed I’d pretty much have the place to myself, being as July 4 is all about picnics and parades…or so I thought. Apparently the large matinee crowd was thinking what I was thinking: escape the brutal heat and sit in a cool, dark room while watching a large screen where people try to tell you a story.
In this case the story was a good one. For a movie to work, it doesn’t need a lot of elements; in fact, sometimes all it takes is the interaction between two characters whose life is somehow changed by meeting each other.
In Safety Not Guaranteed those two people are Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass. Aubrey plays a character we all know: someone who seems naturally droll and pouty. I’m not sure what people call them nowadays, but she represents, I suppose, the latest manifestation of disaffected youth (I lost track after Generation X), although she does it in a way that makes you laugh.
All it takes to shake her character up is to meet someone who has been working the disaffected angle for longer than she’s been alive. What throws a wrench into things is the fact that the disaffected adult also believes passionately in one thing, which happens to be time traveling.
So is this dude a kook? And is she a kook for taking him seriously? And even if the science is flawed, aren’t their lives richer because of their quest?
That you’ll have to decide on your own (movie times are at 1:30, 3:30, 5:30, 7:30, and 9:55). Note, though, that regardless of what your opinions are about the theories that Mark Duplass espouses about time traveling during the film, you’re doing some time traveling simply by entering the Esquire Theatre, which opened in 1911.
How early in film history is that, you ask? Charlie Chaplin had not yet made a movie, not even a short, although he was busy in vaudeville by then. The same is true with Buster Keaton. The film career of W.C. Fields didn’t start until 1915, which is the same year that D.W. Griffith’s epic The Birth of a Nation was released.
In other words, the Esquire was built just as silent film movie magic was about to break loose. Did anyone imagine, in 1911, that a hundred years later this theater would not only exist, but still be thriving? I’ll begin to answer that by saying that, as recently as the 1980s, its future seemed to hang in the balance–but more on that later….