“Pete” from The League, “Nick” from New Girl, and “April” from Parks and Recreation all in one movie. What’s not to love already?? I’m sure the actors would not like reading that I am labeling them as their most popular roles, but let’s be honest, those are some great role predecessors to their characters in “Safety Not Guaranteed”. Of course, I was interested in seeing it right away. The plot speaks for itself: a man puts a personal ad in the paper seeking a worthy partner to join him on his journey back in time. Yes, travel back in time. He even states specifically to the reader that whom ever chooses to respond need to bring their own weapon in case they run into any danger and closes his ad with “Safety Not Guaranteed”.
In the sometimes-awkward Craigslist-era, most of you would be screaming, “Don’t answer the ad! He’ll probably be a serial killer that wants you to put the lotion on the skin!”, but I assure you, there is no Buffalo Bill action here. The real issue we encounter is whether this “time travel” is real and how much we let our ability of just believing in something affect our own outlooks on life.
Not wasting any time, the story delves into the issue of why Kenneth wants to time travel in the first place. This gives way into the true center of the meaning of the movie. Mark Duplass plays the quirky, somewhat socially awkward, “time traveller” Kenneth, who whole-heartedly believes that he can, and has time travelled. His honest and straight forward performance does an effective job of convincing our characters that he can, and will time travel. Aiding in the role of comedy relief, Jake Johnson departs from his bartending sidekick role in New Girl to take the helms as Jeff, a magazine journalist hell bent on creating a funny story about Kenneth, which will ultimately make a mockery of this very strange, seemingly crazy ad he has put in the paper. He brings along Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a jaded intern at the magazine to go off on a quest to investigate Kenneth and his motives. With Jeff bringing the cynicism and Darius bringing the open-mindedness, Duplass was able to create a very likable character who implores the viewers to become completely intrigued and cheer him on as he attempts to put his time traveling plan in motion. Darius immerses herself in Kenneth’s belief that he can time travel and becomes almost immediately attracted to the way Kenneth lives his life. An instant bond is formed by Kenneth filling in the holes that Darius has been feeling since adolescence. From there on, the movie displays themes of love, willpower, and the prominence of an open mind to live a full life.
Indie/”limited release” movies don’t usually have the best track record with me. For instance, I didn’t understand the point of “Blue Valentine”, was bored through “Martha Marcy May Marlene”, and almost fell asleep durning “Young Adult.” I know that they are filmed specifically to convey a deeper meaning and usually have a slower pace on purpose to marinate a center point which almost always allows for long winded discussions on plot points and cinematography strategy following the film. All in all, they are just not my cup of tea. However, I absolutely loved “Safety Not Guaranteed”, regardless of its “indie” label. The tone of the movie was lighthearted enough that when the serious moments came, it allowed the viewer to feel comfortable between the transition. But as you can probably guess, the movie is not all about time travel. It’s about companionship, regret, love, and loss. I think we all could get on board with the idea of going back in time and change certain aspects of our life. It’s an exciting thing to think about! Although “Safety Not Guaranteed” definitely gives heart to that notion, it also plays on the fact that even though the idea of changing the past is appealing, sometimes we just need to let the past be the past and learn to live and be happy in the now.