Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie that that makes you feel like you can do anything. It wins you over with each passing moment so that by the time the last scene comes around; you really care about these characters. It is a heart-warming and surprising movie that engages you from beginning to end and is a refreshing break from the computer-graphic-intensive films that have dominated the movie landscape this year.
Darius (Aubrey Plaza from Scott Pilgrim vs the World) is an intern working for Seattle Magazine. We quickly see that she is cynical and a little weird. When an opportunity arises to help cover a story about a man who posts a bizarre classified ad, she jumps at the chance. The ad asks for a time-traveling partner in crime, one that can “bring their own weapons” and understands that their safety is not guaranteed. Darius, a fellow intern named Arnau (played with perfect deadpan by Karan Soni) and the magazine’s paid reporter Jeff (the best performance in the film by Jake Johnson) travel to the man’s hometown hoping to discover enough about him to write a fluff piece meant to make fun of him. When the three finally meet Kenneth (played with comedic restraint by Mark Duplass from The League) Darius is thrown off by his personality, which is similar to her own and interesting to her. As she spends more and more time with him, she begins to wonder if there is more to him and his crazy ideas than meets the eye.
Safety Not Guaranteed resembles other successful indie films like Little Miss Sunshine and Garden State where the main characters discover greater depths within themselves by going through a personal journey. There is a real potential for cheesiness here, but first-time screenwriter Derek Connolly and first-time director Colin Trevorrow, avoid this pitfall by keeping things smart and intriguing. We like these characters, and even the ones who are meant to disgust are amusing. On top of that, Connolly does a great job of keeping our curiosity piqued as to whether or not Kenneth’s “experiment” is actually legitimate. Is he a genius or is he crazy? Is he just being paranoid, or is there truth behind his suspicions. The best part is that the ending is completely satisfying and well worth the 86 minute running time.
There isn’t much to not like in Safety Not Guaranteed. The performances are all either top-notch or adequate and are never distracting. The soundtrack is full of trendy alternate rock songs that fit well into the Seattle environment and help propel the film forward emotionally at the perfect moments. It wouldn’t be surprising to see this film ending up on a few top-10 movie lists for 2012, and it deserves such accolades. It is smart, funny, and inspiring.
Safety Not Guaranteed is available on DVD and Blu-Ray through Netflix. It is rated ‘R’ for language and has a running time of 86 minutes.