- Movie Rating -

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

| November 14, 2012 | 0 Comments

Safety Not Guaranteed is a sweet, whimsical and often funny little movie with science fiction elements that remain a mystery until the very end.  A synopsis of the film leaves you expecting a fantasy, but the film is much more human than that.  This is a film about people more than it is about science.  That may make the film sound talky and dull, but rest assured it is not.

The synopsis is intriguing.  A trio of writers for a Seattle magazine are given an assignment to travel to the small town of Ocean View to investigate a classified ad that reads: “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.”

This seems like the ravings a nut desperately seeking attention, but the trio head out to Ocean View to investigate him anyway.  The three include: Jeff (Jake Johnson), who would appear to be one of those standard movie Appetite Hounds, whose whole existence is given over to booze, whores and cynicism.  With him are two interns.  One is Darius (Aubrey Plaza), an insecure loner who can’t muster up enough energy to get five minutes through a job interview without the interviewer telling her that she’s not qualified.  The other is Arnau (Karan Soni) a quiet, introverted computer geek who hardly speaks.

Arriving in Ocean View, Aubrey is sent undercover to get to know the man who placed the ad.  He is Kenneth, a sad sack with a disheveled appearance that immediately leads us to believe that he is just a seeking attention.  He claims that is not only traveling in time but that he is also being followed by sinister agents who want to stop him.  Aubrey wants to believe his claims and even helps him when he breaks into a medical supply office to steal some much needed items for his time travel device.

Is Kenneth telling the truth?  That question surrounds the entirety of the film, and we do eventually arrive at the answer to that question, but what is refreshing is that the journey getting there is filled with a lot of humanity dealing with characters.  Kenneth and Aubrey find a strange, but very tender bond as they realize that they have different, but very reasonable, reasons for wanting to travel in time.  Arnau, is a guy who is satisfied to spend his life behind his computer until Jeff opens his mind to more laid back lifestyle.   And Jeff, who starts out as a cynical booze-hound, soon reveals personal reasons for accepting the assignment – he has a high school girlfriend living in Ocean View who has never left his heart.  That relationship doesn’t go the way we might expect.

Surrounding all this humanity is the question of whether or not Kenneth is indeed travelling in time.  That’s what we came for and the movie ends with the answer to that question.  I am not going to give it away, suffice to say that whether or not you are satisfied with the answer is up to you.  Personally, I would have been happier if the film had run on for a bit longer and truly explored what we see at the end.  It ends somewhat short of real satisfaction.  On the plot level that movie doesn’t completely satisfy.  On the character level, it went places that any other film with this plot might not have gone, and for that I appreciated it.

Stars: Aubrey Plaza (Darius Britt), Mark Duplass (Kenneth Calloway), Jake M. Johnson (Jeff Schwensen), Karan Soni (Arnau), Jenica Bergere (Liz), Kristen Bell (Belinda), Jeff Garlin (Mr. Britt), Mary Lynn Rajskub (Bridget). Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Written by Derek Connolly.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.