Web meme sparked Safety Not Guaranteed
Here’s hoping that Jake Johnson continues to nurture his inner buffoon. He’s certainly channelling something in the movie Safety Not Guaranteed, a low-budget supercharmer about love, life, and time travel (which opens in Vancouver on Friday [June 22] ). Johnson’s character, Jeff, goes back to small-town Washington state in the film to hit up an old teenage flame (with the proviso that she hasn’t gotten fat or anything).
Jeff expenses the trip—including a rented Escalade—to the Seattle magazine he writes for, eventually throwing an unhinged party in the vehicle with a couple of teens and the bookish intern he brings along. Johnson is so effortlessly good as the assholish man-child that you have to wonder if he’s partied in an Escalade on his own time.
“I’ve partied almost everywhere,” the actor tells the Georgia Straight in a call from L.A. “But, actually, that was my first experience in an Escalade. I’ll tell you what: I got a little Method on that character because everyone was making fun of it, but I liked [the car] so much that I would ask production if I could drive it from location to location. It was just a great ride, and if I had more self-assurance, I would just drive an Escalade around L.A. and be a damned idiot.”
Hey, it’s never too late, especially with all the superlatives piling up around a film that already had an unusual buzz. Screenwriter Derek Connolly built Safety Not Guaranteed around a real-life (and, evidently, serious) classified ad seeking a time-travel partner. “Bring your own weapons,” it read. “I’ve only done this once before.” The ad took on life as an Internet meme, but Connolly turns a wide-open premise into a warm shaggy-dog tale with an amusingly paranoid sci-fi edge and a big dollop of heart. Still, it takes more than a good screenplay to make a film work.
“You definitely know when something’s a piece of shit, and I’ve definitely experienced that,” Johnson says, without mentioning that he acted beside Ashton Kutcher in No Strings Attached. “But I knew on this that the relationships were really working and that we were having a lot of fun. You don’t know how it’s going to come together, but I knew that there were a lot of great people involved and so I was very hopeful. And then I saw it and I really loved the movie.”
Johnson adds: “I don’t want this to be a movie that disappears; I really want people to see it,” not least of all, presumably, because his own performance is so winning. That Connelly and director Colin Trevorrow chose the right man for the job is abundantly clear as Jeff tries to pickle his broken heart in that melancholically funny Escalade sequence, which crescendos with the character tearfully chugging down a 40-pounder in a slightly less impressive vehicle. “I think a lot of actors have different kinds of dreams and aspirations,” Johnson says, “and mine is not to play Hamlet in the Park. Mine is to play a man who drinks whiskey in a go-kart.”
Watch the trailer for Safety Not Guaranteed.