SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
The plot of SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED generates from an internet meme that circulated several years ago, featuring a wanted ad for a time-travel companion.
Directed by Colin Trevorrow and written by Derek Connolly, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is narrated by Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a deadpan anti-social twenty-something intern at Seattle Magazine. Darius is assigned to accompany sleazy bro-tastic staff writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and hyper-studious fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) on a weekend investigation of the anonymous poster of the ad. When they locate self-described time-traveler Kenneth (Mark Duplass), working at the Grocery Outlet Bargain Market and living in a ramshackle house in the woods, Jeff makes a pitch as the potential companion. Kenneth dismisses him, but Darius’s approach is more successful, and Kenneth begins taking her through preparation for a journey back in time.
… Kenneth is a DIY Doctor Who, a social outcast compellingly dedicated to his quest …
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED occurs in the overlap of a Venn Diagram of Movies About People On Epic Life Journeys and Movies About Time Travel, neatly painted over with a coat of quirky comedy. While lunging for emotional vulnerability, it employs several strategies to keep from slipping over the edge: smart, funny dialogue, a story that continually tweaks the central question of the narrative, and a pair of true-blue believers at the heart of it all. Mark Duplass’s Kenneth is a DIY Doctor Who, a social outcast compellingly dedicated to his quest, and Aubrey Plaza’s Darius, who could easily have been a heartless construct of barbs and quips, is a flesh-and-blood person with hidden hurts and secret hopes. Jeff and Arnau operate as comic relief, but Connolly knows fools are people too, and the trajectory of their narrative offers effective counterpoint to that of Kenneth and Darius.
… a story needn’t save the universe to address universal themes …
Connolly’s script returns thematically again and again to the past as a place populated by our regrets, viewed only through the blurry backward telescope of hindsight. A time-travel movie about personal histories runs the risk of being too sweet and cute to swallow, but a story needn’t save the universe to address universal themes, and the script stays off-kilter and poignant, apart from an ill-advised zither interlude. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED wisely also maintains small-movie suspense when dealing with the technical aspects of Kenneth’s plan. Heists and car chases happen, dour-faced government agents in grey trenchcoats stalk our heroes, but the action stays within the scope of the story. No spoilers, but the end should satisfy adventurers and romantics alike.
- The Cabin In The Woods by Ann Linden
- Linklater’s “Before” Trilogy by Ann Linden
- Chronicle by Ann Linden