Safety Not Guaranteed is a film based on a real newspaper ad that said that following:
“Wanted: Somebody 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.”
The man who made the ad actually makes a brief cameo in the film. The entire film just uses the ad as a basis for the story, nothing else is or attempts to be based on true events/facts.
The movie centers on a newspaper intern named Darius, played by Aubrey Plaza. She volunteers to go on a trip with a columnist, Jeff [Jake Johnson] and another assistant to investigate and write a story about the man who placed the previous ad. Darius must “go undercover” and try and convince Kenneth [Mark Duplass], the writer of the ad, that she should be his companion in time travel.
With a movie like this, where the plot is really simple and you have a first time writer [Derrick Connolly] and a director new to feature films [Colin Trevorrow], it’s seems obvious what you are in store for, and in some ways it is. There is a lot of quirky humor with a classic Aubrey Plaza role [the writer made the part with her as the target actor] and a weird-o sci-fi guy that thinks he can go back in time, and that stuff really works. But that is more of a front for the real heart of the movie: the characters.
What you are given straightaway is the “cover of the book” for these characters: Darius is the introverted kind-of-nerdy girl; Jeff is the cool older guy, still acting like he’s in his mid-20’s; the other intern, Arnau, played by Karan Soni, who is a really introverted, shy, nerdy guy; and Kenneth is the weird, lives-at-home-with-his-mom type character who is a little off his rocker. The classic piece of advice “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” holds true, because both the story and it’s characters are a lot more than what you’d expect. Both the story and the characters have a surprising amount of depth. Connolly then plays off of these surprising depths, giving the viewer evidence to lose faith in the characters and allowing disbelief, and only at the end will you find out the truth.
Plaza’s role, as previously mentioned, was written for her, so she does do a fine job, but there is nothing spectacular since the character fits the role that she is known to play. The other cast members’ performance are, again, surprising with an unexpected range. The whole movie is really just a pleasant surprise.
3/4 – Safety Not Guaranteed is a movie with a straightforward cover that contains an unexpected range of good, heartfelt content; a really pleasant surprise.