Directed by Colin Trevorrow.
2012. Rated R, 86 minutes.
Mary Lynn Rajskub
Apparently, it’s a slow news month in Seattle. One of the city’s local magazines is trying to come up with ideas for a story to run when they decide to find out about the person and story behind a peculiar personal ad. It is for “someone to go back in time with,” and stresses that it is not a joke. Since it was his idea, Jeff (Johnson), decides to head the investigation and takes two interns with him: Darius (Plaza) and Arnau (Soni). Soon enough, they figure out it’s a guy named Kenneth (Duplass). The initial plan is for Jeff to pose as someone answering the ad. However, Kenneth sniffs him out as a fraud pretty quickly. Figuring correctly that Kenneth probably lacks female companionship, Darius is sent in to play the same role. Unsurprisingly to her co-workers, Darius is a hit with Kenneth who agrees to take her through the training process for time travel. Everyone trying to figure out just how crazy Kenneth is while he prepares to do the impossible ensues.
Several other storylines also persist. Jeff tries to hook up with an old flame and to break Arnau out of his shell (and virginity). Then, of course, there’s the little matter of Darius possibly falling for the seemingly unstable Kenneth. These all sound trite, but they’re handled with a humanity that feels genuine. In addition, the overarching time travel plot holds them all together without intruding upon them like the planets in other recent sort-of-sci-fi flicks Melancholia and Another Earth.
Like those other two movies, the science-fiction part of Safety Not Guaranteed is a seldom seen current that runs beneath the story. This is a movie much more about people interacting with one another than any futuristic occurrence. It’s developing love stories mixed with light comedy and drama, investigative reporting and even some possible espionage. This is definitely for the romantics and not the lights-and-lasers crowd.