With the Back to the Future trilogy and sci-fi shows such as Sliders and Quantum Leap, the theme of time travel has been heavily featured in popular culture in the 80’s and 90’s. Rather than cave in to the ‘geek-heavy’ influence of popular culture and make it all about the science, it was only a matter of time before you can turn time-travel into more than just physics.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012) is an independent romantic dramedy with a touch of science-fiction. Social misfit Darius, played by Aubrey Plaza – best known as bitchy Julie Powers in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, is assigned to help womaniser Jeff (New Girl‘s Jake Johnson) on a magazine article following a curious newspaper ad, wherein the advertiser is looking for someone to go back in time with them to the year 2001. Going undercover, she replies to the ad and is ‘recruited’ by Kenneth (Your Sister’s Sister Mark Duplass, also executive producer), an equally sociopathic man whose paranoia keeps him constantly on edge. The two eventually bond during the course of their training leading up to their ‘mission’, while Jeff rekindles with his old high school sweetheart.
The heart of Safety Not Guaranteed is the emotional connections between the characters that grow throughout the film, not to mention the reflection on their respective pasts. Plaza’s closed-off Darius, is funny and heartwarming, and as she opens up to Kenneth, there are some tender moments between the two characters, whether it is as mentor and student or simply friends. Johnson’s character puts in a watchable performance as the emotionally conflicted Jeff and his attempts to reconnect with an old girlfriend is engaging if a bit cliché.
Director Trevorrow makes the most of the picturesque seaside landscapes and creates a suitable setting for writer Derek Connolly’s funny yet quirky premise – the training scenes between Duplass and Plaza, in particular, touch the inner nerd in the audience with an unexpected yet heartfelt outcome. The dialogue is smart and witty, not to mention consistent – no wonder the film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance Film Festival 2012.
Witty, quirky and different in the best sense, Safety Not Guaranteed is destined to one of those great films that no-one will have heard of.
Safety Not Guaranteed is released in cinemas on 26th December 2012.
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Derek Connolly
Stars: Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson
Runtime: 86 min