“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
Newspaper classifieds say the darndest things!
In last year’s Indie-Comedy darling Safety Not Guaranteed, a team of writers goes undercover to investigate the author of the mystifying classified above, with hopes of publishing a story for their Seattle-based magazine. Among them is Darius, a sullen, disillusioned college grad (played by Aubrey Plaza) who ends up forming a connection with the time travelling man, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), while trying to protect her cover. As the two grow closer, the team attempts to decipher whether Kenneth is madly insane or just a lonely soul.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow, Safety Not Guaranteed is a modest film that by end, is actually rather heartwarming. It never tries too hard, and this simplicity is exactly what gives it its unique charm. The performances follow suit. Though Darius isn’t a stretch from any of Plaza’s other roles, she shows more vulnerability here than at her day job as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation. Despite any similarities between the two roles, Plaza carries the film nicely and steps it up in all the right moments.
Duplass deserves credit as well, portraying Kenneth as zany, kind, but most importantly, insanely human (no pun intended). He strikes a perfect balance, making Kenneth entirely root-worthy, even if the character’s sanity level isn’t clear until the film’s final frames. Combined, Duplass and Plaza have a great on-screen chemistry, complementing the movie’s quirky, semi-serious tone and subject matter. Darius and Kenneth each have their own reason to go back in time and these reasons make up the meat of the story and provide a lot of context and depth to these otherwise oddball characters.
Bonus: It’s always great to see Mary Lynn Rajskub and Kristen Bell in action too. Rajskub plays haughty magazine editor Bridget, while Bell takes on a small supporting role that is sort of spoilery if I divulge.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie about regret, guilt and the what-ifs that often plague us throughout our lives. It may even provoke some thought or introspection out of some. It’s endearingly entertaining and slightly silly, yet still packs in plenty of real emotion and good intentions.