“I believe that there are purists out there.”
– Kenneth Calloway
Safety Not Guaranteed is an independent film was based on a similar prank ad written by John Silveira 15 years ago. After the ad went viral, it eventually reached director Colin Trevorrow & writer Derek Connolly and inspired this movie adaptation which has garnered lots of positive buzz, including winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the Sundance Film Festival. While this movie is currently in limited release, it may be well worth looking into this spicy but sweet movie.
Safety Not Guaranteed follows Darian (Aubrey Plaza), a jaded young woman who is an intern at a Seattle magazine. When the boss is looking for the next big story, a fun loving reporter named Jeff (Jake Johnson) suggests doing a story on the person behind a classified ad looking for a partner to time travel with. With the assistance of Darian and a fellow uptight intern named Arnau (Karan Soni), the threesome investigates if the person behind the ad truly believes that he can time travel. After some old fashioned detective work, the group discover the man behind the ad is an eccentric man named Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass). When approaching Calloway for an interview doesn’t work, Darian begins to play the role of undercover spy as she plays along with Calloway’s idea of a time traveling warrior. It works & as Calloway takes her under his wing, prepping for the mission becomes complicated as everything seems to come to a head.
The characters & acting in Safety Not Guaranteed are definitely worth the trip, as Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass were the shining stars of the film. Plaza has shown in the past that she can play the role of the snarky young woman, armed to the teeth with deadpan humor. As Darian, she gets in touch with her emotional side & displays that she has feelings. (This is contrary to her roles in Parks and Development & Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.) Duplass does a spectacular job playing the eccentric yet misunderstood Kenneth. The chemistry between Plaza and Duplass was done so well, the two actors made the connection seem natural. As a whole, these characters are flawed & while they could be easily defined into archetypes, (the angst-ridden woman, the crazy guy, the nerd, the narcissistic male boss), each actor does a great job of playing each character in a way that makes the audience care about these otherwise unappealing or overdone character types.
The main story following Darian and Kenneth is uniquely brilliant. There are times when this story arc switches from drama to romance to action while maintaining its comedy genre identity & charm. Just when you think you understand where the story is going, it makes a different turn that will have audiences wondering, “What’s going to happen next?” However, the language can be a little spicy for some, some of the jokes are misses & there is a subplot of Jeff’s that feels somehow incomplete & rushed. Despite its flaws, the movie’s main story arc in conjunction with its acting make Safety Not Guaranteed a movie experience that you shouldn’t missed.
Safety Not Guaranteed is like creating a successful origami piece for the first time. You may make a couple mistakes or even question if you are doing it right, but once you have the finished product in front of you, it makes the whole experience worthwhile. Despite the box office favorites like Prometheus, Snow White and The Huntsman, & Madagascar 3 in theaters, you should take the time to find this delightfully imaginative and thought-provoking movie. B+
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