20 June 2012

Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed is the theatrical debut of writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow.  It is a low budget dark comedy that stars three sit-com actors: Mark Duplass (The League), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Jake M. Johnson (New Girl).  The film opens on Darius (Plaza) interviewing for a waitress job at a restaurant.  After turned down, she heads back to her unpaid internship at a Seattle magazine agency.  Her boss Bridget (Mary Lynn Rajskub) holds a meeting asking for ideas for articles.  Jeff (Johnson) brings up a wanted ad from a small town Ocean Side, in Washington.  The ad reads “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.”  Bridget approves, and Jeff leaves for Ocean Side, which happens to be his hometown, with two interns in tow: Darius and Arnau (Karan Soni).

The three of them set up a stakeout to watch the PO Box listed with the ad.  Finally, Kenneth (Duplass) shows up to claim his mail.  They follow him to his place of employment and then to his rundown house. After Jeff blows trying to be Kenneth’s partner in time travel, Jeff decides to hook up with an old high school flame that he found on facebook.  In the meantime, Darius befriends Kenneth, and he “trains” her for their journey.  Kenneth warns Darius that he is being watched by the government because they are scared of his knowledge and technology.  All this comes to a head at the end of the film.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a story about regret, living life to the fullest, and making everything count.  Both Darius and Kenneth want to go back to save someone they lost.  Jeff tries to rekindle an old relationship with Liz (Jenica Bergere).  Jeff also takes the nerdy Arnau under his wing and tries to help him experience life before it is too late.  The film has a lot of heart in it, and is very endearing because of it.  The end of the film is left open and extremely vague.  This usually bothers me, as I feel it is a cop out to have actually just written and ending.  Yet, for Safety Not Guaranteed, it works better.  It allows you, the viewer, to decide what happens.

Opening on a small amount of screens here in the StL, I encourage you to see Safety Not Guaranteed while you can.  Hopefully, this film will make enough money in its limited release so that it can keep expanding.  This is one of those films that could roll out into a nice midlevel hit.  Even with the time travel aspects of the film, this is not a science fiction movie.  It is grounded in reality, and that allows it to work very well.  I look forward to what the writer and director have in store for their next feature film.

RATING: 8/10

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