Give it some low budget love
It won the Grand Jury Prize at the (supposedly) prestigious “Sundance Film Festival.” It also won the screenwriting award which included some very experienced screenwriters. And it is a charming, well acted movie whose heart is as big as its’ budget was puny. So how come no one knows, or seems to care about “Safety Not Guaranteed?”
Perhaps Sundance is not as influential as everyone thinks but since you are reading this review there are no more excuses.
“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a quaint, consistently entertaining –even suspenseful–movie about one quirky individual’s passion for time travel. While it’s no “Back to the Future,” (it doesn’t desire to be) and the unnecessary profanity will keep some away, this little passion project deserves attention.
The ubiquitous Mark Duplass (“People Like Us,” “Darling Companion”) plays Kenneth an odd loner and conscientious grocery clerk who puts an ad in the local papers near Ocean View, Washington seeking a companion for his time travel adventure. Compensation to be made upon return with safety of said journey “not guaranteed.”
Replying to the ad are Seattle magazine reporter and wisecracking womanizer Jeff (Jake Johnson) who picks two interns to travel with him to the small oceanfront town including sardonic underachiever Darius (Delightful Aubrey Plaza from TV’s “Parks and Recreation”) and shy nerd Arnau (Karan Soni). In an oft hilarious and surprising sub-plot, things don’t go exactly as planned for Jeff who takes the assignment mainly to hook up with an old flame (Mary Lynn Rajskub).
The key to the credible charm of the story is rooted in the way paranoid, uber-comitted Kenneth and doubting but earnest Darius connect. Is Kenneth a deranged lunatic or an eccentric genius? In his isolated backwoods cabin is he crafting a Rube Goldberg contraption of epic teleportation or a delusional fantasy?
The film deftly reveals Darius’ search for the truth while being beguiled by Kenneth’s seemingly resolute sincerity. Duplass comfortably provides Kenneth’s winning resourcefulness without a trace of creepiness or irony. So much so, that we are rooting for him both as rogue inventor and geeky romantic regardless of the film’s conclusion – which feels perfectly, and cheerfully, appropriate.
Jeff’s sarcastic attitude and foul mouth ( several sexual based F-words mandate the “R” rating) provide much of the humor helped along with assured direction (Colin Trevorrow) and a wonderfully nuanced script (Derek Connolly). If a group of your witty, talented and absolutely committed friends made a movie, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is the kind of truly “indie” film to which they would aspire. May it inspire many to do just that.
Rated “R” for language and some sexual references.