I saw one of the best films I have seen in freaking ages last week – straight from the Sundance Film Festival and SXSW – from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and Our Idiot Brother – Safety Not Guaranteed tells the story of a journalist and two interns on assignment to investigate the man who had placed a classified ad that read :
“Wanted: Somebody 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.”
Aubrey Plaza (probably most famous for her wonderful dead-pan apathy as April Ludgate in the hilarious Parks and Recreation) takes a lead role here – her stayed delivery of witticisms is still intact, but as intern Darius Britt in Safety, her character develops into someone who actually cares. She’s definitely the star here and, with this film, will surely acquire ten-fold more nerd-crush fans.
Karan Soni’s support as the other self-serious intern, Arnau is charming and sweet – and an underplayed and natural ‘comin-of-age’ side plot develops as he’s taken under a (mis)guided wing of Jake Johnson’s character Jeff – who seemingly pitched the whole story to the magazine’s editor simply as a rouse to hunt down an ex girlfriend.
Where the screenplay and direction truly wins, here, like with Little Miss Sunshine, is that the extra-ordinary premise and somewhat farcical moments are understated – and through this under-paying the unbelievable becomes believable – I caught myself wanting it all to be real. Protagonist and would-be time traveller Kenneth played by Mark Duplass is a pitch perfect balance between sublime and ridiculous – his childlike simplicity balances with his man-like righteousness truly making it kinda impossible for you to fall for him.
Most satisfyingly, cheap shot gag opportunities are consistently avoided – there are moments where you can almost see them coming and it’s like the cast and crew simultaneously avoid them as the director shouted “duck!” – it’s definitely one of those ‘less is most definitely more’ situations where you leave the cinema smiling and satisfied. It’s like you just ate the perfect amount of dumplings – you know you could have eaten more and enjoyed them, but equally, you know those extra 2 or 3 (5 or 6, in my case) would leave you feeling bloated. You’re not leaving the cinema hungry, but you know you maybe could have squeezed maybe just one more Aubrey-dumbling in, if you really tried.
Safety Not Guaranteed will be in a lot of peoples lists of favorite films, that’s pretty much definitely guaranteed.
SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED opens in NZ cinemas 13 September