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USA 2012
Directed by
Colin Trevorrow
86 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

Safety Not Guaranteed

Synopsis: In a magazine pitch meeting, a strange column in the personals is raised. A man claims to have invented time travel and seeks fellow travellers, safety not guaranteed. Intrigued, the editor despatches Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) to investigate. But Jeff has ulterior motives for wanting to assignment. He wants to hook up with an old high school crush.

If you could travel back in time, what would you do? That’s the question posed by this funny and endearing film. Jeff already knows the answer, he’s been romanticising the memory of a girl he once had a summer fling with when he was a teenager and he’s off to track her down and satisfy that gnawing itch. So busy is he with this endeavour, he hands off the investigative journalism aspect of his trip to Darius and Arnau, his two interns. And Darius manages to find a way into the life of Kenneth (Mark Duplass), the mysterious man who claims to have built a time machine. Kenneth is paranoid, full of weird theories, and works in a supermarket. But Darius digs her way into his life, and as these things go, the two slowly fall in love, as she’s drawn into his crazed plans that start to look either more and more plausible or just completely insane. Poor Arnau is left to make odd quips and generally be the butt of any number of jokes, a third wheel if ever there was one.

And slowly the story builds until we get to Jeff discovering that the past isn’t what it used to be, Kenneth attempting to heal a past trauma, and Darius coming to deal with the death of her mother. It’s all well told, well acted and generally pretty well grounded for a film inspired by a real fake ad that gained internet notoriety.

There are a few flaws. Given that  Kenneth is so paranoid and his ad had no personal details when Jeff turns up on his doorstep and knows his name as a little dater does Darius he isn't concerned.  The G-Men in dark trenchcoats who show up late in the piece come off as cheesy and are a glaringly cartoonish touch in what’s generally a more gentle comedy. The end is kind of odd too. See, Kenneth eventually finds out Darius is a journalist and feels betrayed. But it’s not long afterwards that he’s completely willing to take her back, because he loves her and she loves him. I’ve always had an issue with this age-old plot device, mainly because there’s nothing done to re-establish trust, just a few words of repentance and forgiveness. Maybe I’m a bit hard-hearted, but it seems rather facile.

But really, those are my only beefs with this film. Safety Not Guaranteed is funny, entertaining, and has a few moments of genuine depth and wisdom in the midst of its more extraordinary plot developments.




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