Magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) takes interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) with him on an assignment to find out more about a man who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.
Ah time travel; while the idea may go through phases of being used in cinema, it is still one that fascinates audiences. Each of us are curious about our futures and fixing things that went wrong in the past, and this is exactly the area that Safety Not Guaranteed plays on.
Since her mother died, Darius has been introverted and quiet, but as she forms a relationship with Kenneth (Mark Duplass) she opens up to him, and finds a person that she can actually relate to. Aubrey Plaza has made a name for herself playing the caustic, sarcastic but actually kind of sweet April in Parks and Recreation. Darius is not very different to April – so Plaza is not exactly stretching herself – but there is nothing wrong with that. Plaza does what she does best and the audience finds themselves rooting for this withdrawn but sweet character.
It would have been easy for Mark Duplass to play Kenneth as simply unhinged, but there is a lot more going on here. Duplass has proven, especially in 2012, that he is an actor that can turn his hand to almost anything – comedy in TV’s The League, drama in Your Sister’s Sister and writing in Jeff, Who Lives at Home – and he manages to play Kenneth as a man who has always been removed from those around him, and is desperate to find a human connection. Duplass and Plaza work incredibly well together as their mutual awkwardness draws them slowly together.
The supporting cast are just as good as the leads; Jake Johnson plays a man who has built up a wall of bravado only for it to come tumbling down, and Karan Soni is great as an introverted man child who is dragged into adulthood by Jeff. As well as this, Kristen Bell makes an appearance as a lost love.
With Safety Not Guaranteed, writer Derek Connolly plays with the idea of regrets holding us back. Each of the characters has something in their past that is stunting their growth through life, and each of them comes face to face with this during the course of the movie. As well as this, there is a charming love story and a silly but fun sci-fi story that branches out into the realm of spies, conspiracies and stolen lasers.
Director Colin Trevorrow has coaxed sweet and gentle performances from his actors, added some silliness and a couple of montages and made a warm and well rounded story about the lengths we go to to hold on to the past. Yes, there are questions that are not answered – such as what is the story with Kenneth’s ear? – but these do not detract from the story as a whole.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a time travel film that is not about time travel, instead it focuses on human relationships and the hold that our past can have over us. That said, the film is warm and fun… Like a hug.