Safety Not Guaranteed is an unexpected trip through time
Starring Mark Duplass and Aubrey Plaza. Rated PG.
New Orleans actor and producer Mark Duplass (usually working with his brother Jay) has only relatively recently become happening enough to star in his own small-budget films, like Baghead and Humpday, as well as glossier Hollywood fare such as Darling Companion and Disney’s upcoming People Like Us.
In Safety Not Guaranteed, written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow (making their feature debuts), he’s more charismatic than in the ostensibly more normal Your Sister’s Sister, also opening this week. Here, Duplass plays Kenneth, a somewhat screwy inventor who attracts the attention of a fictional Seattle magazine that sends three writers to investigate after he takes out a classified ad. Apparently, the guy is seeking a friend for, well, not the end of the world but a trip back to a slightly earlier version of it.
The mag crew consists of a self-serving paid staffer played by Jake M. Johnson—who plays a similar, if stupider, jerk on The New Girl—plus two interns. One is a nerdy Indo-American grad student (Karan Soni) simply padding his résumé, but the gig is an important new start for Darius, a sensitive, self-deprecating goth girl played memorably by Aubrey Plaza.
With the trio hunkered down in the coastal Washington town where both Kenneth and the staff writer grew up, coincidentally, only dark-eyed Darius is able to connect with their would-be time traveller, who lives in a world of Star Wars figures, imagined conspiracies, and actual lasers. Turns out he wants to return to mid-2001 to save a life. (I can think of 3,000 reasons like that, and feel free to argue about whether it’s good or bad that Safety never mentions this.) Along the way, there are unexpected applications of special effects and zither music, and that odd combination—although certainly not designed to please everybody—should justify giving up 84 minutes of your valuable you know what.
Watch the trailer for Safety Not Guaranteed.