I watch a lot of movies and they all obviously run the gamut from great to horrible, but very seldom do you run across one where you can find almost nothing wrong with it in terms of acting, technical aspects and elements on a script level and still come out at the end not being bowled over. Such is the case, for me, when it comes to SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED- a film that I liked from beginning to end but just could not cross that line into loving it. Throughout the course of the film I was expecting at any moment something to pop out at me or for something to click in my brain that took me to that next level and to an extent I did get it, but it wasn’t until the film’s final moments and at that point I wasn’t sure if that brief time was enough to tell myself I loves the film.
Aubrey Plaza stars as an intern, Darious, for a magazine where one of the writers, Jeff (Jake Johnson) has decided to investigate and do a story about a man, Kenneth (Mark Duplass) that posted an ad in a newspaper saying that he needed a partner to travel back in time with him. The rest of the film is the Jeff, Darious and one other intern attempting to have one of them earn Kenneth’s trust to find out if he is completely insane or if he can in fact travel back in time.
The script is smart and it is charming- the actors perform the material equally as smart and charming, but there’s never that moment that I felt anyone was taking it to that next level. Mark Duplass puts in one of his best performances to date, but there are moments that are a little too hammy when it came to scenes where he had to act paranoid or angry. Plaza is great as well, but she is very subdued throughout which may very well be the brilliance of the film in general- the fact that it never tilts heavily one way or the other to full on science fiction or full on indie dramedy. Jake Johnson is actually pretty hilarious, except even he never had a fully satisfying arc or consistency in his character. Johnson flip flops from a stereotypical jerk only out to get laid to all of a sudden a love struck gentleman ready to settle down in his particular side plot and the shift to me while on the verge of something great just kind of gets tossed aside.
The filmmakers do a pretty great job of obscuring Kenneth’s motives through most of the film leaving the audience to hang on the edge never sure (but for the most part pretty sure) if he is suffering from some form of mental illness or extreme denial. Eventually as the scale starts to tip one way that’s when the shift from straightforward indie dramedy to something else entirely and it’s in that last 20 plus minutes that I was finally ready to take the leap into loving it and then it ends. Ultimately the actual ending was somewhat unsatisfying for me personally.
I don’t want anything I’m saying to deter anyone from checking this film out and to be perfectly honest my opinion here hasn’t completely sold me that I wouldn’t love it after multiple viewings. Based on what I saw the first time around what I deemed was a film that was funny, charming and on the brink of cracking indie gold. Greatness is never a promise and as the title suggests it is most certainly not guaranteed- make no mistake though, SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED is still a very good film that just might take a few go arounds to win me over outright.
Written By: Luke (@CrummyLuke on Twitter)