Some of my favorite films are the ones that don't have much ostensible plot movement at first glance. I like films where characters just meander aimlessly as they work through certain social issues, or reevaluate their place in their own lives, and really, that's what this film is all about. It's about taking a temperature reading in the current political climate and deciding if it's time to make a meaningful and purposeful change in the way we live our lives. Josh (Justin Long, "Drag Me to Hell") is not a bad guy, though he does has his issues; he's a bit self-centered, he thinks he can fix everyone's problems for them and attempts to do so, and sometimes he just won't shut up enough for other people to get a word in. At the same time, Josh is trying. He makes a honest effort to connect with his family as his grandmother lies dying in the hospital, even going out of his way multiple times to try to convince his father (Richard Schiff, "Seven") to visit her, though his relationship with her over the last years has been strained (Grandma is mom's mom and the parents are divorced). Through these sequences we begin to get a sense of who Josh is and what he truly believes, and we also get passing interactions with minor characters that gently play on the import and sometimes uncomfortable social issues and how he as a white, straight, cisgender male plays into those issues. He approaches certain situations with as much gravitas as he can, but in the end, sometimes, he just finds himself at a loss for what to do. Many of the situations Josh finds himself in don't seem to really have an obvious answer as to what truly is 'The Right Thing' to do, and when he feels at a loss he feels as if he needs to fix it, when, in the end, all he really needs to do is listen, understand, and try to sympathize with the people he may have inadvertently hurt or offended. Beyond making a few important points, this film is also really funny. The theater in which I saw this movie was mostly full, and the crowd seemed to absolutely eat the humor up. Most of the jokes arises from uncomfortable or awkward situations, but there are plenty of great character chemistry moments, one liners, jokes that were previously set up and executed flawlessly, and though many of the jokes revolve around hot issues, none of it ever feels forced, crass, or ill-conceived; it feels real and honest. I think the reason I enjoyed this film so much is that it doesn't really claim to have any answers. It just asks that you open your ears and mind to the changing climate, and shut up for a while, at least long enough to hear the other voices and opinions around you. Overall, "Safe Spaces" was a very enjoyable, very 'woke' comedy that feels right at home in 2019.
A NYC professor spends a week re-connecting with his family while defending his reputation over controversial behavior at his college.
December 7, 2019