Regret is a universal human condition. A missed connection, a lost love, a sudden death, or the one thing you have always wished you’d said—all of us have at least one thing we lament. So what if you were given a chance to go back and rectify your mistake? Would you take it?
That’s the underlying premise of Safety Not Guaranteed, an indie dramady staring Aubrey Plaza (TV’s Parks and Rec) as a magazine intern who goes along on a trip to investigate a strange newspaper classified ad offering a chance to go back in time. Must bring own weapons. “Safety not guaranteed.” Plaza connects with the man offering the ad—an eccentric stock clerk at an Oregon grocery store—and trains to go back in time.
Mark Duplass brings great nuance to the borderline-unhinged Kenneth, a man who boasts the ability to travel through time—he has done it once before—and will take a companion to provide security. Duplass and Plaza have a great rapport and chemistry. Their timing is flawless and makes relatable this absurd premise.
While the movie begins as an exploration a man who claims to be able to travel through time it grows into something more touching as the characters confront their past. I won’t go into details as to not spoil the twists in the plot, which are pleasant without ever seeming forced or cloying, the subplots are well constructed and acted. Karan Soni and Jake M. Johnson do great work with limited screen time, crafting interesting and memorable characters.
The film is brilliant through its first two acts but unravels quickly in its final minutes. In its race to finish, the movie has some logical gaps that jolt the audience out of the narrative with decisions that are based on information never presented on the screen.
By it’s conclusion, there is no ambiguity about the ability of its protagonist to travel through time which is the movie’s biggest misstep: A little mystery would have made Plaza’s faithful leap much more satisfying but the film is still very solid. Dry humor, interesting characters and a novel story based on an odd concept, Safety Not Guaranteed is easy to recommend.
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