The Movie: Safety Not Guaranteed
The Players: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
The Makers: Colin Trevorrow (director), Derek Connolly (writer)
Run time: 120 minutes
I first heard about this movie last year when David and Margaret reviewed it, and thought it sounded quirky and interesting. And it was!
Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) are interns at Seattle Magazine. Darius is a bored, directionless college graduate who seems to be in a permanant "funk", as her widowed father puts it. At a meeting one day, Jeff, one of the magazine writers, proposes an interview with the author of a classified ad that reads:
Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O.
Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You'll get paid after we get back. Must
bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this
Darius and Arnau are assigned to help him, and the three of them travel to the seaside town Ocean View to find the author and write a story about him. Staking out the PO box belonging to the letter writer, Darius follows him and discovers he is Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), a local supermarket employee. After Jeff fails to get any information out of Kenneth, Darius approaches him in the supermarket, piquing his interest. They arrange to meet up later on, and he takes Darius through a series of training exercises to determine whether she is worthy of accompanying him on "the mission."
While Darius gets more involved in training for the time travel expedition, Jeff reveals an ulterior motive and tracks down an old girlfriend, Liz, from his youth. As Darius and Arnau continue learning more about Kenneth, Jeff gets involved with Liz and realises that life in Seattle might not compare to beachside life with his old flame. Things get complicated, though, when Darius begins to fall for Kenneth, and the trio from Seattle discover that Kenneth's claims that he's being followed turn out to be true, and that his past isn't quite what he's made it out to be. Kenneth tells Darius to meet him at the launching site, determined to continued with his mission. Darius is torn, trying not to let her feelings for Kenneth get in the way of getting a good story.
Disguised as a sort of sci-fi film, this is more of a romance. Aubrey Plaza, who I've always found kind of bland (possibly because of the permanent bored expression on her face), actually gives a sweet performance. She's cool and collected, but her gentle inquisitiveness creates a lovely bond between her and Kenneth. Jake Johnson provides a welcome side of humor as the arrogant magazine writer using interns to do the hard work for him, while he uses the business trip as an excuse to rekindle his romance with Liz. One of the strongest points of the writing is that the film isn't used as a tool for time travel debate or cynicism, or as a way of painting Kenneth as some outlandish conspiracy theorist. Instead the characters each embark on their own journey of discovery, as their memories and past hurts push them towards some form of realisation that the past can't be changed.
This was an incredibly sweet film that subtly captures the first moments of falling in love - the highs, the lows, the doubts, and the discoveries. It's a gentle story that doesn't try to argue too much, or convince the audience it must believe in one side over the other. Instead, we watch and wait, letting the belief that Darius begins to find creeping over her slowly washing over us as well. It's well worth watching.
In a word: sweet