A small budget doesn’t always equate to an unambitious story. Take the lofty premise of time travel and throw in Aubrey Plaza of ‘Parks and Recreation’ and you have ‘Safety Not Guaranteed.’
Darius (Plaza) is a young intern at a Seattle magazine. Writer Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) sees a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel. He proposes that it would make a good article to explore this person and to see what he/she is all about. Jeff takes two interns: Darius and the overachiever Arnau (Karan Soni).
The trio travels to a seaside community called Ocean View to track the poster of the ad down. Jeff has an ulterior motive, though. The ‘professional’ of the group delegates most of the work to his interns, especially after they find out the person who set up the ad is a seemingly crazy stock clerk at a supermarket, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass). Jeff is rebuffed when he tries to insincerely join Kenneth’s cause. It is decided that Darius should try, which she does and is able to be convincing. She enters Kenneth’s world and begins to get the scoop as she begins to ‘train’ for time travel.
Will the group get the story they are looking for? Will Darius and Kenneth actually time travel? Will everyone find what they are looking for?
The title might make you think that there is a real element of danger in the story. The truth of the matter is that the story is quite talky and there aren’t many opportunities for danger. Even a few scenes which seem to present problems for the characters rarely seem to come to fruition. It’s really about people who have unresolved issues in their pasts and don’t know how to get beyond them. We even get some laid back comedy, but it’s far from a riot.
All of the characters have voids in their lives. Some of them are more aware of them than others and are more proactive about fixing them. At the same time, some of the characters are a bit deceptive and selfish, which makes them a little hard to trust, much less root for. Also, Darius seems especially receptive to Kenneth’s lunacy, much more than the character and Plaza’s usual deadpan delivery would suggest. Keep an eye out for the most passive government agents in film history.
While this had a small budget, the film looks better than many independent features and comes across as rather professional. There are even some nifty visual effects late in the game. No need to worry about a grainy, shaky camera.
The leads give universally strong performances which really makes the film.
Special features include: nothing.
‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ is a fine concept and is well-executed. The approach is surprisingly low-key considering the subject matter which will disappoint some, but at the end of the day, it’s a good story. The universal acclaim that the film has received may create some overinflated expectations, but it’s still solid.
Rated R 86 minutes 2012