What if you felt a bit weird about yourself, like you were drifting on another plane to everyone else and there was no one to tether you down, would you jump at the chance to find that tether, or would you seek out the person and drift off together? This was what I got out of the surprisingly sweet Safety Not Guaranteed, which on the outside deals with people making fun of a crazy person but is actually about a chronic need to belong.
Time travel stories are always a little naff. They are one of those things like buddy comedies that have been done to death over the years. Luckily, someone decided to add a new dimension to the time travel mould – the psyche behind the traveller. Mark Duplass is the weirdo in the bush, Kenneth, who puts an ad in the newspaper seeking a partner for time travel (“Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed.”) and Jake Johnson is a reporter, Geoff, with his interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), investigating the seemingly humorous story. As things progress, we realise things are not as they seem.
This is the next in the current string of Mark Duplass appearances since the sublime Your Sister’s Sister. He has a wonderful way of finding his way on screen and as this focussed, maybe crazy, very lonely guy, he is fantastic. Some people really take a disliking to Aubrey Plaza (I overheard someone call her Snorbrey Plaza the other day), but I adore her. She has the dead-pan shtick down-pat and while that may be the issue with most people, it’s nice here to see her shine with a character with a little more depth. There is a great scene where she first comes into contact with Kenneth in the supermarket and the two were electric.
The character of Geoff was my main issue with the film. I think he was meant to represent the 30-something man re-evaluating his place in the world but really he just came across as a serious asshole. Which is a shame, because I think Jake Johnson is a fine actor, and it was a wasted opportunity – perhaps just needed to be written less harshly.
First time screenwriter Derek Connolly does an OK job, but perhaps needed some more attention to the movie as a whole. Over the time travel conversations or the other crap going on with the other characters (Arnau leaves such a small impression on the film, one day on I have actually forgotten all about him), I mostly really enjoyed Darius and Kenneth’s relationship – it’s a sweet love story about outsiders finding one another even when they maybe didn’t realise they needed to. There are a few uncomfortably clunky scenes, but in all it’s a pretty sweet film that will win you over in the end, and unlike most things nowadays, it didn’t end anywhere close to how I thought it would, which is disarmingly refreshing.