Jul. 11, 2012 - Issue #873: The Big Cover-Up
Safety Not Guaranteed
Directed by Colin Trevorrow
The movie's title, and a substantial part of its premise, comes from an actual classified ad found in a 1997 issue of Backwoods Home, placed by someone who said they invented a time machine and was looking for a travel companion. Some time later a dude named John Silveira claimed he wrote the ad as a way to find a girlfriend. The movie would probably work better if it were also about a guy who just wanted to find a girlfriend, instead of a half-assed melding of romantic comedy and science fiction.
Things get rolling when smarmy Seattle staff writer Jeff (Jake Johnson) spots the ad and pitches a follow-up story. The magazine, an alt-weekly with one massive budget for human interest stories—talk about science fiction!—gives Jeff the go-ahead, complete with bottomless per-diems and not one, but two interns. Intern One is Darius (Aubrey Plaza), our heroine, a mopey, wise-cracker. Intern Two is Arnau (Karan Soni), your token South Asian tight-assed computer nerd who can't talk to girls, but surely has a heart of gold. The interns take the gig relatively seriously while Jeff, we quickly realize, contrived the
assignment so he could hook up with an old flame living in Ocean View, the town where Mr Time Travel has his PO box.
"Everything cool is gone," bemoans Darius, and indeed, just about everyone in Safety Not Guaranteed is coping with unresolved issues in their past: Jake and his old flame, Darius and the mother she lost to an accident years ago and Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who posted the ad, a lonely kook with a Loverboy haircut and a fake ear, who lives in a dilapidated house in the forest, works at a big box store and likes to play with guns, do dive-rolls and, apparently, build time machines in his spare time. Kenneth has something in his past that he feels bad about too, and the time machine represents his opportunity to set things straight.
For a movie about the vagaries of destiny, Colin Trevorrow's directorial debut, written by Derek Connolly, sure feels predictable. The science of time travel is left a total mystery while the coming together of Darius and Kenneth, and the piling on of obstacles plays out as mechanically as clockwork. The ending is especially unconvincing, but at least Plaza and Duplass are likable enough.
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