WANTED: someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.
Sounds like a psychopath’s ad or a romantic’s dream job. It’s very hard to distinguish between the two, which is exactly what Colin Trevorrow’s film plays with. A magazine columnist and two interns are assigned to interview the man who placed this ad on the newspaper and determine the extent of his madness or eccentricity. Jeff (Jake Johnson), Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) head out of town in order to find Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the alleged time-traveller, see how serious he is, put together a story about him and of course find themselves caught up in a weird mix of suited agents, laser robberies and dead ex-girlfriends.
What’s even stranger than the film’s premise is that to some extent, it’s real. Derek Connolly’s script for Safety Not Guaranteed was inspired by a classified ad placed on Backwoods Home Magazine as a joke by John Silveira and the screenwriter used this essentially funny — but just as romantic — idea as his starting point for the film. The result is a comedy that keeps its audience smiling throughout, explores the funny and the serious, the dreamy and the real side of life, puts very diverse characters together in one room, gives them problems, rejection, dreams and hopes and sees what happens.
The script is very funny, it’s fast, it’s clever, and more than anything, it stays original, dry and authentic, without ever compromising, falling into clichés or boring its audience. The protagonists are quirky but real, next-door messed up kids, with issues, insecurities, need for romance and escape. At the same time they have their own individual background, they’re different from one another, they agree and disagree, they speak their own mind and fall into different categories of people. In other words, Derek Connolly’s characters are comical but in a convincing kind of way, his dialogue well-suited for them and the situations he chooses to put them in, hilarious and absurd in the most imaginative manner.
Colin Trevorrow’s direction keeps up with this fast-paced, peculiar story effectively. All the different tricks, the twists and revelations are given to us in a perfect pace, nothing happens too quickly, but no part slows down either. The cast has a lot to do with keeping a great rhythm and what makes Safety Not Guaranteed even more interesting and keeps it that way, is the fact that no one ever really knows what’s happening. Is this ad a maniac’s hallucination? Is it a practical joke? Is it romance? Or perhaps really strong desire to achieve something, to the extent you strongly believe you will? Without giving anything away, the film is all this and more, in the sense that each character backs a different team, opinion and interpretation of the ad and of what’s happening around him.
Safety Not Guaranteed is great indie. Quirky, unsual, awkward, fresh and very entertaining. For those of you believing in time-travelling, this is a must-see.
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Safety Not Guaranteed (awards won and nominated for) at IMDb
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