Safety Not Guaranteed–Movie Review

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5 Stars

Safety Not Guaranteed (IMDB) is an unconventional romantic comedy that manages to get just about everything right.

The story begins when Jeff Schwensen (Jake M. Johnson), a shallow self-centered writer for a San Francisco magazine, hears about a mysterious classified ad that appeared in a small-town newspaper:

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.

Jeff convinces his boss that this could be the basis of an amusing human-interest story. She lets him take two interns to the ocean-side town where the ad appeared to find and interview the person responsible.

Jeff doesn’t really care about the story. He mostly just wants to visit the town at the magazine’s expense and try to hook up with an old girlfriend (Jenica Bergere) who lives there.

The interns take it a lot more seriously. One of them is Arnau (Karan Soni), an ultra-nerdy college student. The other is Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a somewhat alienated and depressive girl who recently graduated and hasn’t been able to find a job that actually pays money.

The interns figure out that the ad was placed by Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), a clerk at a local grocery store who likes to bend the ears of his coworkers with incomprehensible jabber about quantum theory.

Jeff approaches Kenneth pretending to answer the ad, but Kenneth immediately spots him for a phoney and tells him to get lost. Jeff notes that Kenneth is “not retarded” but thinks he is pretty weird.

Darius tries next and has better luck. It helps that she is really smart and quick on her feet. (The way she uses language is rather brilliant. She would surely be a better writer than Jeff.)

In fact she is surprised by how well she hits it off with Kenneth. He is definitely weird, maybe even a little crazy (he thinks government agents are following him) but she feels a certain kinship with him as a fellow misfit. Certainly he is more likeable than Jeff. Her objectivity begins to crumble as she starts to feel more loyalty to Kenneth than to the story.

And that’s all that I’m prepared to say about the movie. It’s a small, low-budget picture that doesn’t try to do too much, but for what it is it is just about perfect. It deserves to be watched without spoilers.