Director: Colin Trevorrow (Reality Show, Home Base)
Screenplay: Derek Connolly
Producers: Derek Connolly, Stephanie Langhoff, Peter Saraf, Colin Trevorrow, Marc Turtletaub
Starring: Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Mary Lynn Rajskub
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 86 min.
Though they share nearly nothing in common, Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed is reminiscent of Aaron Katz’s Cold Weather (review). My brain made the connection because both movies feature regular 20-somethings who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. In the case of Safety, the circumstance in question happens to be time travel.
It all begins with an ad in a local paper. A man is looking for a travel partner for his trip into the past. Looking for a story, and the chance to reconnect with a high school sweet heart, Jeff pitches the idea to his editor and gets approval to take two interns with him to help with research. His meeting with Kenneth, the time traveler, doesn’t go well so the group launches the back-up plan: send the cute intern Darius in to make contact. The plan works and Kenneth quickly takes Darius into his confidence, making her not only a travel companion but a partner in crime.
Kenneth weaves a plausible story of why he wants to go back, even though he never shares the mechanics of time-travel, and though we know time travel is an impossibility (at least in our current time and place), Trevorrow plays it as an option and though Kenneth comes across as a nutjob, there’s so much truth to his story that one starts to doubt reality and the idea that he can actually time travel becomes a possibility. But the audience, like his fellow traveller and her work companions, don’t know for sure how the story will play out until the final few moments.
Safety isn’t just a great bit of comedic drama with hints of sci-fi, it’s also a sweet story of self discovery and romance. Not only do Darius and Kenneth find in each other kindred spirits, but both Jeff and Arnau, Darius’ co-workers, find their own sort of catharsis in small town Washington.
Mark Duplass’ performances have been improving with each new movie and here he’s fantastic as the awkward but sure Kenneth. The character is a nutball but he’s a likable nutball, even when he’s hatching up some crazy idea to steal lasers. Fans of “Parks and Recreation” likely know that Aubrey Plaza is fantastic but I’ve only seen the actress in small roles in small movies and she’s a bit of a revelation here, a mix of sexy geek with a streak of snarky in her that walks the fine line between likeable and mean though it’s curbed enough that she never crosses the line. Instead you get the sense that she’s a no-nonsense sort of girl who’s been hurt too many times and not willing to open up quickly but Kenneth breaks down a wall and watching the two fall for each other is sweet.
Occasionally Safety veers into goofy territory but it perfectly balances that style of comedy with a well written, dramedy that is far smarter and more touching than most of its counterparts; it’s a hugely entertaining bit of comedy gold with more than a handful of touching moments along the way.
DVD Extras: A 15-minute making-of documentary called “A Movie Making Mission” and “The Ad Behind the Movie,” a five minute discussion about the real ad that inspired the movie.