Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ Review: Perfectly Cast & Surprisingly Fresh

Can Aubrey Plaza add time traveling to her list of wacky talents? The star of NBC’s Parks and Recreation breaks away from the TV world for a bit and jumps into director Colin Trevorrow’s film about a peculiar man who believes he can time travel and the wannabe journalist who is trying to get the story.

Safety Not Guaranteed is not a sci-fi film nor is it a Duplass Brothers film, even though our so-called time traveler, Kenneth is played by Mark Duplass. The film shares that goofy, yet sentimental vibe of the Duplass Brothers’ film, Jeff, Who Lives At Home and the quirky feel of their 2010 film, Cyrus. But thankfully, in this case, Mark Duplass decided to step in front of the camera in Safety and we’re thrilled he did because he does a remarkable job.

The film opens with a young girl, Darius (Plaza) who is interviewing for a job as a waitress. We learn quickly that Darius is reserved, discontent and a bit of a loner. She works as an intern at Seattle Magazine, which she dislikes, and her next assignment is to tag along with another journalist Jeff (New Girl’s Jake Johnson), who found an ad in the paper regarding a man who is looking for a partner to go time traveling with. Jeff thinks he can make a decent story out of the maniac and Darius is curious. Jeff persuades his boss he needs two interns to come with him, so he picks the Indian intern, Arnau (Karan Soni) and the three head off to find the man who believes in time traveling.

After a little bit of stalking, Darius and Arnau find Kenneth (Duplass) and Darius proceeds to follow him back to his home. After Jeff’s failure to convince Kenneth he would be a good time traveling partner, he asks Darius to do it, so they can get the real story on this guy and go home.

Of course the real reason jerky Jeff wanted to take the story, is so he can track down his high school girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere). While he’s busy looking her up, Darius hangs with Kenneth and the two plan their time-traveling adventure.

Each character in Safety is intriguing in their own way and I’d argue it’s one of the best casted films of 2012. Every character may not share equal screen time, but we get to see enough of them to the point that we are instantly drawn in to their lives and want to learn more.

Duplass creates a sincere and heartfelt Kenneth in that we frequently question ourselves, “Is he the real deal or is it just all in his head?” As Kenneth and Darius grow closer, we are never steered away from wanting to learn the truth about Kenneth and that comes from the witty screenplay and amazing direction, by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow, respectively.

As much as I was interested in Kenneth and Darius’ story, we are given an entertaining subplot with Jeff and his high school romance Liz. Johnson has an incredible character arc in the movie, proving he is certainly an up-and-coming actor to watch out for.

Out of the many movies I see every year, it’s rare to come across an ending which is so fascinating and heartfelt that the whole audience cheers when the screen goes black. Safety Not Guaranteed is that pleasant surprise we rarely come across in the world of movies.

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