Safety Not Guaranteed is a typical indie film in that it contains all of the following: misunderstood central character, oddballs, nerdy guy/girl getting some love action, tragic backstories. It was also sweet, weird, funny and magical and I have to say, I really enjoyed it.
I came to the film by way of the cast: Aubrey Plaza plays the central role of Darius (I’m a massive Parks and Recreation fan), with support from Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson (of ‘Nick Miller, Nick Miller’, New Girl fame). The basic plot was as follows: Darius is an unhappy, lonely 20-something, interning at a local magazine. There, the opportunity to help writer Jeff (Johnson) on a story about an ad placed in a paper’s classified that reads:
Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before
Intrigued, they (along with fellow intern Arnau) seek out the would-be time traveller, who turns out to be local eccentric Kenneth Calloway (Duplass). Kenneth is secretive, awkward and completely committed to the idea that he can (and will) travel back in time; specifically to 2001. Darius volunteers to go undercover, getting to know Kenneth and his plans. As she is more accepted by Kenneth however, the more drawn in by his ideas she becomes.
I liked the central conceit of the film (anything that involves serious suspension of disbelief usually works on me) and I also really enjoyed how Kenneth’s unswerving self-belief in what he’s doing begins to affect the other characters. They all began to look at their lives and question what (if anything) they were as passionate about. Darius has spent her whole life feeling isolated and disconnected and with Kenneth, she begins to open up. As she gets deeper into the adventure and her feelings for Kenneth develop, she starts to wonder whether he’s telling the truth.
The film keeps you guessing until the very end as to what will happen when Kenneth actually tries to time travel. Little nuggets are revealed throughout that add credibility to the story, but it’s never clear whether that is coincidence or fate. As the film goes on, however, you begin to feel that credibility isn’t really necessary; Kenneth believes and that’s all that matters. The loveliest thing about the film for me was the meeting of minds between the two leads. Both Darius and Kenneth have been chronically misunderstood and overlooked their whole lives. They have regrets about the way things have gone and in meeting each other, find someone who understands the desire to change things and who appreciates them for who they are. It’s a nice reminder that however awkward and out of place we might feel, we always have people waiting for us somewhere.