Movie Review: Safety Not Guaranteed

WANTED:  Someone to go back in time with me.  This is not a joke.  You’ll get paid after we get back.  Must bring your own weapons.  I have only done this once before.


Has there ever been a movie that is solely based on investigating an odd wanted advertisement in a local paper?  I do not think so, and Safety Not Guaranteed is here to fill that void.

The dramedy that is Safety Not Guaranteed focuses on a Seattle magazine writer, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) and two interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), that go on a work trip to investigate a wanted ad.  The ad is quite peculiar since it is looking for someone to assist on a time travel expedition.  Jeff thinks it is worthy of a story and takes the two interns with him to research the story.  Darius and Arnau locate Kenneth (Mark Duplass) as the writer of the ad after some staking out of his P.O. Box.  After some further following of Kenneth, Jeff makes contact with him, but Kenneth quickly does not trust him.  Darius takes up the mission of befriending Kenneth and applying to become his time travel mate.  They quickly strike up a friendship with Darius pretending to believe everything Kenneth says.

There is a second plot line to the film that involves Jeff seeking out an old high school girlfriend, Liz (Jenica Bergere).  Second to that is Jeff’s mission to get dorky, awkward Arnau laid.

Safety Not Guaranteed played at the South by Southwest Film Festival this year.  I was not able to see it, but several of my friends did and loved it.  I have been eager to see it ever since, expecting a really good film.  Unfortunately, I did not find myself laughing along with audience very much.  It is not that the comedy wasn’t there, but it was just not that funny.  The parts of the film that did have me laughing had to do with Jeff and Arnau.

The comedic part of the film did not elicit that many laughs from me.  However, I started to like the film a lot more once the relationship between Darius and Kenneth develops.  Darius tries to keep up the façade of believing everything that Kenneth says and going along with all that he does in preparation for the time travel.  While this is going on, she falls for Kenneth in a very raw, honest way.  You can see it happen on her face.  This is a portrayal of love that does not get translated into films very well, but when it does, the love is very swoon-worthy in this female’s opinion.  It is not surprising that I also fell for Kenneth as soon as he started revealing a bit more about himself and his motivations for going back in time.  It is hard to describe the point in the film where all this happens while not getting too spoiler heavy.

Aubrey Plaza is a mostly comedic actress who does the look of angst, depression, and indifference very well.  This is her in Safety Not Guaranteed also.  That is until her character’s relationship with Kenneth blossoms and we get to see her smile once in a while.  I would really love to see Aubrey Plaza in a more upbeat role once in a while, and not get typecast into playing the same kind of character all the time.  Mark Duplass as Kenneth is quite extraordinary.  He plays Kenneth with conviction, even when it is obvious the guy is a little crazy.  Duplass embraces the soul of Kenneth.  He may be a little off his rocker, but he is beautiful guy on the inside who has the chivalry and romanticism that girls crave.  With the film hitting the theatres, Mark Duplass might find himself with a few more female fans than he had before.

While Safety Not Guaranteed is not the comedic gem that it was expected to be, it is the dramatic portion of the film that won me over.  This did not happen until towards the end of the film, but it made me admire the film for its great portrayal of love that can win over crazy.  I know that I am repeating myself, but the raw and honest portrayal of how Kenneth and Darius connect to each other is the best part of this film.  The ending is that much lovelier because of their connection and how forgiving they are of each other.  Mark Duplass succeeded in his portrayal of Kenneth enough that he has become a new crush of mine.  A little crazy with a lot of love can go a long way in a girl’s heart, as Darius finds out.

I give Safety Not Guaranteed 3.5 “Tomato Soup Cans” out of 5.

by Sarah Ksiazek

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