SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
Safety Not Guaranteed has a time travel premise, although you are not sure for much of the running time if it actually is a science-fiction film. For the greater part, it is a quirky indie romantic film of sorts. The plot follows two strands intern Aubrey Plaza as she joins a group to track down and investigate Mark Duplass who claims to be a time traveller and is advertising for a companion, much discussion of whether he is deluded or for real, and her eventual realisation of an attraction to him. The other plot deals with journalist Jake Johnson, his return to his hometown and reuniting with the girl of his dreams (Jenice Bergere). There is also a lesser plot about how Jake Johnson gets ultra-nerdy Karan Soni to loosen up and lose his virginity. All of this is conducted with some fine writing and played out with characterisations that have a considerable freshness and sincerity. (The film is apparently based on an ad that was placed in Backwoods Home Magaazine in 1997 by John Silveira, which then proceeded to go viral and was optioned by Colin Trevorrow).
Aubrey Plaza, previously known for tvs Parks and Recreation (2009-15), kicks the film off with an appealing line in deadpan sarcasm. Yet for all its apparent wry irony in this department, Safety Not Guaranteed is a surprisingly sincere film. It is one part a work about people hanging onto the past Jake Johnson and his ideal of the perfect woman; both Aubrey Plaza and Mark Duplass wanting to time travel to erase personal tragedies and about moving on and rediscovering how to live. Aubrey Plaza in particular is a great find her unwavering deadpan manner makes the film, and she does a great job in the scene when it comes to using her wiles to seduce Mark Duplass. The lantern-jawed Duplass maintains an adorable sense of seeming bewildered and slightly lost that any mother would instantly want to adopt. There is excellent support from the world-weary and cynical Jake Johnson who you would swear is a younger brother of Mark Ruffalo.
Much of the film is focused around these various character interplays rather than the time travel element. Another time travel work might focus around the culture clashes, the adventures had by the traveller or the conundrums afforded by time paradox, whereas here such issues are pushed to the side altogether. The time travel element is regarded comically as the probably delusionary imaginings of one individual and the entire film hangs on the question of whether there really is a time machine or not. In this respect, Safety Not Guaranteed resembles less classic time travel works like The Time Machine (1960), The Terminator (1984) or Back to the Future (1985) than it does Happy Accidents (2000). The latter was another indie film where Marisa Tomei was engaged in a relationship with a man (Vincent DOnofrio) who claimed to be a time traveller and her uncertainty as to whether he is deluded or genuine. Similarly here, we never know whether Mark Duplass is genuine or eccentric right until the last scene of the film.
Director Colin Trevorrow next went on to make Jurassic World (2015), followed by the non-genre indie film The Book of Henry (2017).
(Nominee for Best Actress (Aubrey Plaza) at this sites Best of 2012 Awards).