Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed

Comedy, 2012

86 minutes

Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Mark Duplass, Karan Soni

Directed by: Colin Trevorrow

Written by: Derek Connolly

The funniest, most charming, and most keenly observed movie of the summer is one that most people probably did not see. Safety Not Guaranteed takes a bizarre premise (inspired by real life) that could have easily translated into broad, unsophisticated comedy and instead delivers a story that is subtle, compassionate, and quietly hilarious.

The plot hinges upon a highly improbable classified ad that spurs the main characters on a journey of self-discovery:

“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. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.”

This ad catches the attention of Jeff, a journalist from a Seattle magazine, and he assembles a team of interns to track down the person who wrote it. The interns, Darius and Arnau, are both misfits in their own unique ways, and they each favor a different approach to finding the mysterious ad writer. Inevitably, it is the sullen but comely Darius (Aubrey Plaza) who discovers and approaches the man; he turns out to be an unassuming grocery store clerk named Kenneth Calloway. Kenneth (Mark Duplass) is just as weird as you would expect, but he is also surprisingly smart, sensitive, and real. A loner like Darius, he proves himself unexpectedly endearing, to the point that Darius ceases to engage with him as a reporter and starts to develop real affection for him.

Of course, there is still the whole matter of time travel, and it turns out that, despite how ridiculous it seems, Kenneth totally believes in it. Furthermore, he’s convinced that there are government agents after him, hoping to put a stop to his experiments. Both Darius and the audience worry that Kenneth might not be as harmless as he seems, but at the same time start to wonder if maybe he could be right. And therein lies the charm of the film: anything seems like it could be possible. The characters—not only Darius and Kenneth, but also Jeff and Arnau—learn to embrace the world rather than to hide from it, to look for meaning rather than to accept emptiness. They begin to find possibility where before they were limited, and even the audience can’t help but join in. Safety Not Guaranteed makes it easy to believe in anything. Even time travel.

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