By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a wonderfully original comedy supported by a witty script and talented cast.
The story follows three Seattle magazine employees, played by Jake M. Johnson (“New Girl”), Aubrey Plaza (“Parks and Recreation”) and Karan Soni, as they track down the man who posted a mysterious classified ad seeking somebody to travel back in time with him. Mark Duplass (“The League”) stars as the guy who may or may not be able to travel back in time.
The low-budget feel of the movie fits even though it’s about time travel. Duplass’ style for his character is stuck somewhere between the late ’70s and ’80s with faded jean jacket, partial mullet and beat-up Nissan Z. The wardrobe department must have had fun on this movie.
What’s most refreshing about “Safety Not Guaranteed” is that its not easily identifiable with popular culture. While studios continue to produce big-budget movies based on books, video games, and board games it’s nice to know that there are creative people out there who still choose to tell their own original stories with intelligence.
Writer Derek Connolly won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for this movie and the honor was well-deserved. The dialogue in the movie has an authentic, natural feel and the humor is often subtle but hilarious at the same.
Director Colin Trevorrow worked with Connolly on the TV movie “Gary: Under Crises” and the benefit of that previous experience is felt in “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Trevorrow has a good sense for how to bring Connolly’s words to life cinematically.
Plaza, an actress who has mastered the art of blending apathy and sarcasm, only stretches her acting muscles slightly but it doesn’t matter that the character she plays in “Safety Not Guaranteed” is similar to April on “Parks and Recreation” because the part feels like it was written for her.
In addition to acting, Duplass wrote and directed “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” along with his brother, Jay. While Duplass has been enjoying a slightly higher profile in Hollywood as a writer and director, “Safety Not Guaranteed” may be his chance to break into the mainstream as an actor, just as Mark Ruffalo finally rose out of obscurity after “You Can Count on Me.”
As demonstrated by “Cyrus” and “Jeff, Who Lives at Home,” the Duplass brothers’ tastes lean toward dark humor and slightly depressing situations with characters who don’t expect much out of life. By contrast, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is downright inspirational and uplifting.
“Safety Not Guaranteed” opens in Los Angeles on June 8 and San Diego on June 15.