Directed by: Colin Trevorrow.
Written by: Derek Connolly.
Starring: Aubrey Plaza (Darius), Mark Duplass (Kenneth), Jake M. Johnson (Jeff), Karan Soni (Arnau), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Bridget), Jeff Garlin (Mr. Britt), William Hall Jr. (Shannon), Jenica Bergere (Liz), Kristen Bell (Belinda).
A very strange classified ad brings together a cynical, dour magazine intern and a romantic, perhaps crazy, idealist in the indie comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, a strange comedy that I liked quite a bit, but would have liked even more if it were even stranger. This is one of those movies that when they begin who cannot figure out just which way it’s going to go – and then ends up pretty much playing it straight. Yes, it’s fun and contains a few good performances. But I do kind of wish it had pushed itself further.
Aubrey Plaza, from Parks and Recreation, plays Darius, who has been in a bad mood since her mother died when she was 14 years old. She’s now out of college, interns for Seattle Magazine, but has no friends, outside her dad, no boyfriend and few prospects. She cannot even get a job as a waitress, because the manager, correctly, says she is “not a good hire” because she thinks she’s too good for this work. She catches a break when a staff reporter, Jeff (Jake Johnson, from New Girl) gets sent a classified ad from a paper down in Oceanview – that is asking for a partner to travel back in time with. The ad does work “Safety Not Guaranteed”, which I suppose is at least honest. Jeff wants to figure out who placed the ad – and do a story on the crazy guy who thinks he can travel back in time. He needs two interns – so he picks Darius, along with Arnau (Karan Soni), and off they head to Ocean View. It doesn’t take long to find out that Kenneth (Mark Duplass) placed the ad, but when Jeff strikes out on his first chance to get the inside scoop, they send in Darius – thinking that because she’s hot, Kenneth may let his guard down, and agree to take her on as his partner – which he does.
Plaza’s comic persona, which she has perfected on Parks and Recreation, serves her well as Darius, who is seemingly a cynic, but has the heart of romantic somewhere buried down deep. You can guess where the movie is going – at first, Darius sees Kenneth as a loony – wondering aloud if he’s going to cut her up and eat her, but is gradually won over by him. For his part, Duplass is so sincere, so guileless, that it’s nearly impossible not to believe him – or at least to not believe that he doesn’t believe in what he is doing. There is a nice subplot involving Johnson going back to see the girl he had a summer fling with as a teenager (Jenica Bergere), which is the type of memory that haunts many of us, and makes us wish we did have a time machine to go back and correct our mistakes.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a clever comedy – but not one that is so clever that it gets annoying. It is a pleasant movie from beginning to end. Personally, I would have preferred a more ambiguous ending that the one the movie gives us – something that would have left the audience wondering a little bit about what actually happened. Yet, that is a small complaint. Safety Not Guaranteed is not a great movie, but it is an amusing, an interesting romantic comedy.