Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
7Jul/120

Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Regrets. We've all got a few. The characters in the comedy Safety Not Guaranteed all have their pet regret, and it's a movie that touches on how much traumatic events can reverberate through a person's life and effect all of their relationships.

That sounds pretty heavy, which isn't quite so much what Safety has in mind. It's based on the following classified ad:

"WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."

... so it's not entirely serious. There's a nice, broad sense of humor at play here, which plays with the ad being a serious offer. Three Seattle journalists, macho asshole Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), nerdy Arnau (Karan Soni) and troubled Darius (Aubrey Plaza), decide to travel across the state to track down the person who left the ad and discover what their deal exactly is.

Yes, 'Darius'. No, I don't know why that's her name.

Darius takes charge of the investigation quickly as Jeff becomes obsessed with rekindling a relationship with a former lover and Arnau is too meek to do much of anything. She finds Kenneth (Mark Duplass) after some deduction, and agrees to be his partner in hopes of getting a good story out of it.

The film plays with Darius and Kenneth's relationship, as Darius struggles to keep her motivation under wraps while trying to determine the earnest, awkward Kenneth's reasons for wanting to go back in time to 2001. Kenneth trains her in gun play and martial arts and has him help her pull off a spectacular heist of laser equipment.

And that's, uh, all well and good. Director Colin Trevorrow doesn't have the most exciting vision for the film, aiming for creating a modest and sweet romantic comedy that plays off of a weird situation and the follows it to whatever conclusion it necessitates.

Interestingly, Safety parallels the Darius/Kenneth romantical pairing with Jeff's wooing of his summer sweetheart. Her name was Liz (Jenica Bergere), and she's grown into a divorcee. Neither are as they remember each other, and Jeff quickly flips out whenever she doesn't meet his expectations of her. This leads in a messy exit, which informs the main plot as well; our nostalgia fucks up our perceptions.

The movie isn't quite that dark in all regards, as Jeff's heartbreak precipitates him pushing Arnau to party and experience life while he can. His new confidence mimics the warmth that has been entering the cracks of Darius' heart, and pointing towards a happier, better place where romantic love can redeem our pains.

Jeff, Darius and Arnau recreate their favorite scene from Woody Allen's Interiors.

Knowing that the film is extrapolated from that classified ad from above makes it tougher to swallow. It's a real ad, and while the movie is filled with cutesy gags, none of it manages to be as funny as that ad, which, I imagine, should probably have been a requirement along the way.

The performances are good, and Trevorrow creates a Western Washington that looks appropriately cold, damp and mysterious. Aubrey Plaza is pretty much good for one type of role, and she modulates it well here. Duplass plays Kenneth as an eager but cautious fellow, and wins the most laughs in the movie with his retro chic and possibly-justified paranoia.

There are 'alright' movies in this world that don't reach for the stars, but would rather just be pleasant and comfortable. This is one of those. I found the movie theater I saw this in more charming than the movie itself, but that's just my bitter, old heart. If the premise intrigues you, it's a safe bet that you'll get a kick out of it.

Posted by Danny

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