SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
"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. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before." This unusual classified ad inspires three cynical Seattle magazine employees to look for the story behind it. They set out for the seaside community of Ocean View. Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a disillusioned college graduate who interns at the magazine. She's joined by a fellow intern, the very serious Arnau (Karan Soni), and their boozy boss, Jeff (Jake Johnson). Jeff is only interested in trying to hook up with an old flame who lives in Ocean View, so Darius and Arnau are left largely to their own devices. They find the eccentric Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a supermarket clerk who believes he's solved the riddle of time travel and intends to depart again soon. (Based on a real classified ad.)
Review by Louise Keller:
A social outcast, an Indian with flames on his laptop and a jaded journalist on the prowl for an old flame join forces to seek out the story behind a newspaper advertisement in search of a time travelling companion. It's the first feature for director Colin Trevorrow from an inspired screenplay by Derek Connolly that takes a unique concept and lovingly moulds it into a road movie that arguably is about both the journey and the destination. Each of the four central characters is quirky and flawed; what is supremely interesting is how we change our minds about them all. What begins as an oddball idea is fleshed out by way of a myriad branches, leading into different but always credible directions. With the element of time being the central focus of the narrative, Trevorrow establishes a steady, lively pace until the final sprint to the film's fabulous ending.
In the opening scenes, as we meet the film's protagonist Darius, (superbly portrayed by Aubrey Plaza) we see how cynical she has become about life. Taking the job of an intern at a magazine, she expects the worst. Heading to Ocean View from Seattle on what is expected to be a wild goose-chase about a self proclaimed time-traveller is infinitely better than changing toilet paper rolls in a lowly office job. Soon, circumstances place her in the position to investigate undercover the person who placed the ad: the owner of Letterbox 91, Kenneth (Mark Duplass). After all, Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) the sceptical journo is more interested in looking up his former blonde girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere) and getting Arnau (Karan Soni) laid, the shy, bespectacled and virginal 21 year old Indian.
It quickly becomes plain that Darius is on the same wave-length as the extremely strange, fake ear-wearing Kenneth (Duplass is terrific), who believes people are following him, insists on furtive meetings and combat drill in preparation for the journey back in time. Much of the enjoyment comes from the establishment of trust between the Darius and Kenneth. Meanwhile, Jeff makes his advances to Liz and Arnau is shown 'the moment of his life'.
We are drawn in far enough to start wondering what is real and imaginary and by the time the crescendo to the conclusion begins, we are loudly rooting for everyone. This is a sweetly ingenious film that sits comfortably on its oddball base, offering great charm through its character-driven humour and narrative.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Some films happily defy categorisation, or else they cover a variety of genres in one happy cinematic embrace - and Safety Not Guaranteed is one of them. Comedy, romance, sci-fi ... and wonderful whimsy, come together in this surprising film. We love surprises in our cinema, especially ones made with such heart. It closed the 2012 Sydney Film Festival - with a flourish.
The wondrously named Aubrey Plaza plays the curiously named Darius, a young woman who doesn't quite fit in and is self consciously but bravely floating through her life, when she gets a job as an intern on Seattle Magazine. She is assigned to accompany self indulgent, self centred professional journalist Jeff (Jake M. Johnson) along with fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) to see if there is a story behind a weird classified that appeared in their paper, someone in nearby Ocean View looking for a partner in time travel - safety not guaranteed.
Jeff sees this as a chance to track down his old Ocean View flame, Liz (Jenica Bergere) while the interns track down the weirdo. The weirdo turns out to be Kenneth (Mark Duplass) a supermarket worker secretly engaged in the manufacture of a time travel machine. Once they make contact, Darius gets the job of posing as a potential time travel partner to get the inside story, and finds herself drawn to this likeable nut.
It's best to let the film surprise you as it goes along, but the one thing that can be revealed is that while only Kenneth is ever sure of what is going on, we are as off balance throughout as the three characters from Seattle Magazine.
Cleverly, adroitly written and observed, the film is as much a study of its characters as it is an intriguing story. Jeff, for example, runs a full emotional lap when he gets to catch up with Liz and this subplot adds a layer to the film that shines the torch on his make up, without detracting from the central story.
The silent type, Arnau, is dragged into his first ever night of freewheeling fun and finds himself enjoying it. But it's Darius who makes the longest, boldest journey, turning her internship at the publication into a fully fledged life experience like no other.
And Kenneth turns out to be a complex and fascinating character whose mysteries simply multiply as the film delivers its magnificent resolution.
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SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED (PG)
CAST: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Janica Bergere, Kristen Bell
PRODUCER: Peter Saraf, Marc Turtletaub, Stephanie Langhoff
DIRECTOR: Colin Trevorrow
SCRIPT: Derek Connolly
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benjamin Kasulke
EDITOR: Joe Landauer, Franklin Peterson
MUSIC: Ryan Miller
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ben Blankenship
RUNNING TIME: 85 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 18, 2012