- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © FilmDistrict
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
here’s a reason why film festivals exist, because without them, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to discover hidden gems like Colin Trevorrow’s sublimely entertaining “Safety Not Guaranteed,” which otherwise might have never gotten the attention that it so rightly deserves. The movie is an amalgamation of everything that’s great about indie filmmaking – from its hugely original script to its wonderful cast of characters – but the one thing that it does better than anything else is create a cinematic experience that’s both rich in comedy and emotion. A lot of movies have tried to juggle the two in the past, but “Safety Not Guaranteed” is one of those rare few that pulls it off effortlessly.
WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
Based on this real-life classified ad that was turned into an Internet meme, the film stars Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni as a trio of Seattle magazine workers who track down the mysterious author hoping that it will lead to a great story. What they don’t realize, however, is that although Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) may be a little eccentric, he honestly believes that he’s solved the riddle to time travel. So when the cute but quirky Darius (Plaza) suddenly shows up on his doorstep inquiring about the position, Kenneth agrees to bring her along on his next time-traveling adventure. But while Darius’ skeptical boss Jeff (Johnson) thinks that Kenneth is just plain crazy, she slowly begins to buy into the whole act as she wonders if it might actually be possible.
A character-driven dramedy with equal parts humor and heart, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a magical film about the human spirit whose charm is impossible to ignore. Although Trevorrow relies on the time travel plot to progress the story, the movie is about much more than whether or not Kenneth’s machine works – or for that matter, if it even exists. In fact, that seems to be the last thing on writer Derek Connolly’s mind, as his script is more interested in developing the relationships between his characters and how the theme of time affects each one differently. For instance, Darius wants to go back in time to prevent a tragic event from happening; nerdy intern Arnau (Soni) doesn’t realize that he’s wasting his best years; and Jeff is trying to reclaim the former glory of his youth by tracking down an old high school crush (Jenica Bergere) that could have been The One.
All four actors deliver such incredibly honest and funny performances that it’s hard to imagine anyone else playing the parts. Jake Johnson takes a character that excels in the art of douchebaggery and manages to make him sympathetic. Newcomer Karan Soni earns some of the film's biggest laughs in a breakout role. Mark Duplass crafts a memorable weirdo that’s just outlandish enough without bordering on parody. And Plaza proves that she can do more than spout witty one-liners and mug for the camera with her best work to date. Beyond their individual performances, however, the cast just clicks really well, and it's one of the main reasons for the film’s success. “Safety Not Guaranteed” is also original, humorous, sincere, and perhaps most importantly, filled with immense hope. And in a world that's fueled by cynicism, it’s nice to see a movie that hasn’t completely given up on the human race, no matter how strange we may be.
Single-Disc Blu-ray Review:
It's not much, but the included featurette "A Movie Making Mission" provides some good insight into the making of the film, with interviews from director Colin Trevorrow and the cast discussing the movie's origin, shooting certain sequences and the construction of the time machine. There's also a short interview with John Silveria about writing the classified ad on which "Safety Not Guaranteed" is based and an UltraViolet digital copy.