While most media hype has been directed towards "Prometheus," another science fiction film has been voted our Criticwire Pick of the Week: "Safety Not Guaranteed," a romantic comedy about time travel, has received the highest score among Criticwire members this week.
The film centers around three magazine scribes (one of them played by Aubrey Plaza) sent to investigate an advertisement written by a man (Mark Duplass) seeking a companion for a dangerous mission to the past. Since its opening at Sundance 2012, the film as averaged a "B" rating from our Criticwire members.
Indiewire’s Eric Kohn describes Colin Trevorrow’s feature-length directorial theatrical debut as a "good-natured romantic comedy [that] takes a handful of characters facing familiar conundrums — loneliness, family problems, the desire to follow your passion no matter how absurd it may seem — and sustains them with solid performances and impeccable good vibes. It's the rare case of endearing quirkiness." For Kim Voynar at Movie City News, one of the strengths of the "Safety Not Guaranteed" is an atypical turn from Duplass. "In most of his roles there’s still that little bit of 'Mark Duplass' under the surface peeking out," Voynar explains. "His turn in 'Safety Not Guaranteed,' though, is a bit of a revelation, much more complex and layered than we've seen from him before." CriterionCast’s Joshua Brunsting extrapolates Duplass’ successes to the rest of the actors. "From top to bottom, this film belongs to its superb cast," he writes, "and their often career-best performances."
Daryl Wein’s "Lola Versus" has earned generally favorable reviews (it has a "B" average on Criticwire) since its debut at Tribeca earlier this year, but not all response has been entirely positive. The romantic comedy stars Greta Gerwig as Lola, a twentysomething New Yorker struggling to find her place in the city after her boyfriend leaves her right before their scheduled wedding. Given the locale and the age of the protagonist, the film drew unfavorable comparisons to the HBO series "Girls" from Kohn and The Playlist’s Rodrigo Perez.
For Kohn, the film avoids being successful largely because "it's inoffensively familiar. Funny moments abound, but it never strays from predictability." Meanwhile, Perez points to the glossy sheen surrounding much of the proceedings. "Shot with sunkissed photography seemingly set to make each sequence feel like a 'New York, I Love You' moment, there's also something fabricated and inauthentic about the perfectly calibrated aesthetics," he writes.
The one release this week that seems destined to spawn its own "Barbed Wire" piece in these parts is the new period piece/literary adaptation hybrid "Bel Ami." Robert Pattinson plays the upwardly mobile social climber George Duroy who, during late 19th century France, manages to grab a significant position at a major newspaper while seducing various women as he increases in confidence. CineVue’s Patrick Gamble describes the overall product as "a cheap and utterly pointless romp that descends into absurdity at an alarming rate." For The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang, whose general attitude towards the film also seems to be one of disappointment, there are some redeemable qualities. "The film never lost our attention and even having significant problems with it, we found ourselves willing it along," she writes. "And, at the risk of damning with faint praise, the sets, costumes, hairdos — all the trappings — are pretty glorious too."
As for the merits of that teeny arthouse flick about aliens opening wide on Friday — you know, the one from that newbie director Ridley Scott — we dissected the early, across-the-pond reactions last week. Although we at Criticwire are spoiler-conscious, if you haven’t been to an advance "Prometheus" screening yet, proceed with the caution usually reserved for astronauts investigating bygone, space-bound civilizations. You can also check out Indiewire's take on the movie and other smaller sci-fi offerings here.