To steal a portmanteau from The Fairly Odd Parents, Safety Not Guaranteed is the most threatmantic sci-fi picture you’ll see this year. For every cute and silly scene played up for big laughs, there’s a dark and serious moment to balance it out. You never know when or why the turn will happen. It just does.
Darius is an intern at a general interest magazine. She has no idea what she’s going to do with her life. She has no friends and no real source of income. Jeff, one of the staff writers, brings her along on a gig investigating a classified ad. Someone is looking for the perfect companion to join them on a dangerous time travelling mission. After a quick series of misfires, Darius becomes the bait for the magazine story.The joy of Safety Not Guaranteed is not knowing what will happen next. Oh, you can predict all you want. There’s no way you’ll figure out everything that will happen. Between the tonal shifts and the true ensemble feel of the film, you just need to learn to trust the film. Five very different characters share the spotlight. Another six pop up to refine and change the context of the story. Lest you spoil yourself before you go, you’re not going to know what to expect. That’s a good thing.
Derek Connolly’s screenplay will put you at ease. It’s so easy to let go once the whole investigation is set into motion. The comedy is natural and the character development rich and welcome.The movie has a really unique rhythm to it. Since it’s an ensemble romantic sci-fi comedy suspense (?) picture, Conolly and director Colin Trevorrow have to let scenes linger longer than expected. In other films, an actor walking out of a car to do something important would lead to a scene change. In Safety Not Guaranteed , the camera hangs back for a few seconds to show what the other characters are doing while waiting in the car. It takes a few scenes to start to feel out the beats, but it works well to define the parameters of a strange story.
The cast is more than able to handle all the odd things Conolly and Trevorrow throw at them. Aubrey Plaza gets to show so much range beyond her typical pouty cynic as Darius. She’s clever, she’s funny, she’s honest, and she wants everyone to be happy even at her own expense. Jake Johnson is a perfect balance as Jeff, playing a character who should be more put together than his intern in crisis but is perhaps the biggest mess in the film. Jenica Bergere and Karan Soni round out the writer/artist group nicely as Jeff’s ex-girlfriend and other intern, respectively.All of these players can be funny in their own ways, but they exist to contrast and boost up Mark Duplass’ turn as Kenneth. Duplass embodies this role. There is not one moment of hesitation in his performance. The beauty of Safety Not Guaranteed is trying to figure out of Kenneth is serious and sane or joking and unhinged. Duplass does not crack in his time traveler/survivalist role unless he is put in a situation so stressful that anyone would be vulnerable. It’s a masterful turn that deserves recognition.
Safety Not Guaranteed is one of the more unusual sci-fi films to come around in years. It’s not a big idea film like Prometheus and it’s not a character piece like Another Earth. It is a narrative-driven story about a group of lost souls trying to find worth in a five line classified ad.
And really, what more could you want in an adorably menacing sci-fi romantic quirky indie comedy movie?
Thoughts? Have you seen Safety Not Guaranteed yet? Do you plan on it? Sound off below. Love to hear from you.