Back in 2010, Easy A catapulted Emma Stone from the relatively unknown right into the spotlight, and with any luck, that’s exactly what Safety Not Guaranteed will do for Aubrey Plaza. This film is as character driven as they come, and there’s something so entrancing about the journey they all take with one another, and the way their lives change over the course of the story that really makes this a can’t miss film.
The film starts right away with a showcasing of Plaza’s great comedic delivery, and overall strong screen presence. She wraps her character’s backstory up in under a minute, and that’s all we need to understand her outlook on life as her story begins. To wrap her character Darius into a stereotype would be to simply call her somewhat emo. She’s not a happy person, as a traumatic event changed her life when she was younger, and she’s yet to fully recover. That doesn’t mean she’s depressing to watch, in fact, she’s anything but. She carries this heavy weight on her shoulders, but uses sharp wit and clever dialogue as a defense mechanism, which is almost always endearing and entertaining.
She’s an intern at a magazine, and when Jeff (Jake Johnson), one of the reporters, pitches an idea about doing a story on a guy who posted a classified ad that reads, “Wanted: Someone 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,” Darius jumps at the chance to break out of her funk and try to work on something interesting. The two of them, along with the shy, somewhat nerdy intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), then head off to the coastal town where this classified ad originated.
It’s here that Darius learns that Jeff simply pitched the story because he found out that an old flame of his that he’s never forgotten lives in this town and he wants to hook up with her, while leaving her and Arnau to do most of the story. In order to get a better understanding at what they’re dealing with, Darius goes undercover and confronts the writer of the ad Kenneth (Mark Duplass) about being his partner and going back in time with him. This starts the group on a journey of self-discovery that none of them were prepared for.
Derek Connolly makes his debut as a screenwriter with Safety Not Guaranteed, and he proves right out of the gate that while not everything is perfectly pieced together, he’s got such a great grasp on his characters and their development that the answers to every question don’t need to be answered. The dialogue is sharp and funny, and the overall feel of the film is just enjoyable and enchanting. The way that time travel is used as one of the main plot devices, yet is really not the central focus of the story at all plays off really well, and highlights the understanding Connolly has on his story.
It’s also a first for the film’s director, Colin Trevorrow, who takes the reigns of this story extremely well, and helps guide these characters through their journey in a way that’s entertaining for the viewer from start to finish. While the main character of the film is Darius, every other character has their own story and experiences that help shape them along the way as well. This is never an easy task, yet Trevorrow really has things under control and it shows in the smooth pacing and well-timed developments throughout.
On the acting front, as mentioned above, Plaza is astonishing. She’s really someone I want to see more of and those of you who watch Parks and Recreation likely already knew this. While the film itself was nowhere near the financial success of Easy A, I have no doubt that Plaza’s career will flourish in the future due to both this role, and her natural abilities and charisma. Johnson, who can also be found on the small screen in Fox’s New Girl, plays the part of douche reporter Jeff perfectly. He’s a guy you don’t want to like, but also can’t really hate, and over the course of the film those feelings continue to bounce back and forth in entertaining fashion. Soni is also a fun character, albeit the most minor one, who starts off as more of a stereotype and slowly starts to see changes in himself as the film goes on.
Lastly there’s Duplass, who really has the tough job of selling Kenneth as a guy who’s partially off his rocker, though also endearing to the viewer to the point where they want to believe in him. It’s not an easy job, but Burrows makes it look like one, pulling out non-stop charm and even a little musical number midway through that he performed live for the camera. That’s right, what you hear there is him actually singing and playing this instrument I can’t even remember the name of on the spot, and it sounds great.
Safety Not Guaranteed is one of those independent gems that we all hope to see appear over the course of any given year. The performances by all involved are completely captivating, and the story itself is unique, sentimental and full of fun. When it comes right down to it, this is a good time – guaranteed.
The audio and video transfers for this film are both strong and well put together. The video looks crisp, with great images and some beautiful scenic shots, and the audio comes through smoothly, with clean dialogue, transitions and ambient use. Everything is working well in both these areas.
A Movie Making Mission Featurette: Behind-the-Scenes with the Director and Cast – This is a fun fifteen minutes featurette that covers enough ground to satisfy most who want a bit more knowledge into the making of this film. It’s not a lot, but it’s better than nothing, and we hear from everybody involved outside of Connolly.
The Real Ad Behind the Movie – This is a quick two minute piece about the guy who wrote the ad this film was based on back in the ’80s. He actually has a small cameo in the film, which you will see during this quick piece.
Safety Not Guaranteed is definitely a movie you should check out if you’re in the mood for a character driven story with the perfect mix of deep, emotional storytelling and lighthearted fun. Highly recommended.
Filmdistrict Presents Safety Not Guaranteed. Directed by: Colin Trevorrow. Written by: Derek Connolly. Starring: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Kristen Bell, Jeff Garlin, Mary Lynn Rajskub. Running time: 85 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released: October 30, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.