{new on dvd} Safety Not Guaranteed

You should know that Safety Not Guaranteed is not really about time travel. At least not in the way that Back to the Future or Primer is about time travel.  Safety is more about love…the kind of time-travel that’s available to us all. Meaning that love is able to transform the way we experience the-past-in-the-present almost as well as if we actually flux-capacitor-ed away our regrets.

And, oh, these characters have regrets. Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is an anti-social magazine intern still grieving her mother’s years-past death. Jeff (Jake Johnson) is her boss, a cynical writer still pining after his high-school girlfriend.  Jeff sets out on a quest to reconnect with said woman, under the guise of writing a story about this intriguing classified ad:

 

The placer of the ad, Kenneth (Mark Duplass—the man was in so many movies this year!), eventually reveals to Darius that his time-travel missions are based in regret as well. The only character without a reason to want to change the past is the charmingly innocent intern Arnau (the scene-stealing Karan Soni), who has led such a nose-to-the-grindstone existence that he hasn’t had time to accumulate any regrets. Which is a regret in itself, of course.

Screenwriter Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow create early empathy with these less-than-perfect characters by letting us see their defense mechanisms plainly. Darius deadpans and deflects. Jeff bosses and brags. (“Tell me about your life,” his old flame says after hearing about his job, car and condo. “I just did,” Jeff replies.) Kenneth speaks in over-the-top agent jargon and puts himself through obstacle courses in the woods. Arnau just tries to avoid engagement with anything other than his gaming laptop…and Darius…at all costs.

The movie moves along with an ease that only comes with a whole lot of work by Connolly and Trevorrow. The plot advances as Darius (undercover as a potential time-travel partner) gains Kenneth’s trust, and the team discovers there’s a whole lot more to his story than they first thought. Along the way, they are each forced to face their regrets and learn to live in the present, time-travel be damned.

And therein lies the movie’s message. When Kenneth quizes Jeff at the beginning of the film, “Have you ever stared fear and danger in the eye and said ‘Yes?'”, the film is asking us the same thing…but the “fear and danger” lies in choosing the present and choosing to love. Each character is faced with those choices as the film progresses to its climax.

Speaking of which…I was fortunate enough to first see Safety Not Guaranteed at the SXSW Film Festival in a packed theatre with the cast & crew in attendance. It was one of my favorite movie-going experiences ever. I don’t know how the film’s ending will play in your own living room, but I hope it’s something like what happened in Austin. People were literally on their feet, pumping their fists in the air and cheering. Out loud. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Except that the film was just as good the second time. Who says you can’t go back?

gimme five

Good for: Secretly sentimental sci-fi fans and people who like comedies with heart

Invite your: Most likely time-travel buddy

Snack on: Campbells Soup

Bring your: Star Wars figurines and lasers (both figure into the plot)

Skip if: Your ears bleed at just the mention of time travel…but, seriously, I can’t think of very many people who will not at least marginally love this movie

To ask a question posed in the film, what would you go back for?

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Sarah Magill

Sarah Magill has a full-time movie habit made possible by a day-time greeting card writing gig. She blogs at Gimme Some Film and is learning to write scripts and direct. She tries to balance her screen obsession with trail running, jazz singing, book clubbing, and hanging out with The Best Golden Retriever Ever, Copa.

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Comments

  1. Ali | Gimme Some Oven — November 20, 2012 @ 8:32 am (#)

    Oooh – me, me! I want to be invited as a time travel buddy!

    Hmmm, I think I would love to go back and see my grandparents when they were in their 20’s and falling in love, and going to war, and taking it all in along the way.

    • sarah — November 20, 2012 @ 9:44 am (#)

      Oooooo. Good one. That would be fascinating to watch. I’m picturing you hiding behind newspapers at cafes and following them down park paths to watch their story unfold. Beautiful!

  2. bet — November 20, 2012 @ 9:33 am (#)

    i thoroughly enjoyed this movie. there were so many emotional surprises and every one of them rang true. as quirky as it is, it’s one of the more ‘real’ movies i’ve seen in a long time.

    • sarah — November 20, 2012 @ 9:45 am (#)

      Agreed! I think we both loved the moment when she’s freaking out and singing to herself, “What am I doing here? Why am I doing this”. So real.

  3. Nathan — November 20, 2012 @ 10:43 am (#)

    This film gave me everything that “Your Sister’s Sister” did not, and yet I feel they are closely related. That is why I love film–you never know which stories will stick to your ribs or not.

    • sarah — November 20, 2012 @ 9:07 pm (#)

      So true. Yeah, there’s something in their natural feel that is really similar. Glad you liked Safety!

  4. LIz Stevens — November 20, 2012 @ 9:57 pm (#)

    Ahh I have been wanting to see this. My friend showed me the preview awhile back and it has been on my list ever since! Gonna have to check it out!

    • sarah — November 20, 2012 @ 10:31 pm (#)

      Yes! Rent/Buy it now! You won’t be disappointed. Plus, Aubrey Plaza’s wardrobe is slacker cute…some good weekend casual style inspiration in there!