Someone 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. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.
Honest-to-God good times. Safety Not Guaranteed is primarily the story of young woman Darius (Aubrey Plaza) on her first news reporting field assignment to investigate the kook who posted the bizarre ad. Within the first moments, Darius explains to us how she has been unpopular her entire life. She is often mistaken for being a lesbian, for being a mousy nobody, for being a bore. A little shorter, more mascara, a poofier head beanie and she’d pass for an Emo Girl. The guy she meets, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), isn’t the whack-job as anticipated, he’s the affable homey-type looking to make connections with “purists.” To get more juice out of the story, Darius says she will go back in time with him. Kenneth is so kind, thoughtful and innocent that after awhile she forgets that he might be schizophrenic.
In terms of reporting, Darius has a good instinct on how to generate leads and crack open information even though she’s merely an intern. The other intern is a shy Indian college boy (Karan Soni), while the lead news writer is a shallow sexaholic named Jeff (Jake Johnson). At this Ocean View, Washington field assignment, Jeff spends most of his time chasing down a girl he slept with ages ago. Now here is a guy who exudes the vibe that he’d be a lot happier if he could back in time and be a nicer guy the second time around.
The investigative reporting gig feels generally harmless up until Kenneth makes Darius an accomplice to steal lasers from a tech research lab. Not long after, the two of them get tailed by long-coat government agents who have surprising, if unconvincing, lax standards. Perhaps the agents are curious about what Kenneth will do next, so they stand-by. By day, Kenneth is just a tame slave-waging grocer. As for Darius, she sticks through this assignment because, well… she feels attractive and desirable, right? She feels right at home with a guy for the first time, even if he is off-kilter. She is aware that they share a misfit bond together.
This slim 85-minute movie is good enough that I wish it had gone on for a couple of more minutes at the end. That’s not a complaint against the tech specs. I’m pleased to report that this indie gives us a money shot that puts bigger blockbusters to shame.
But really, I had this is mind: If I’ve made a few mistakes in life by acting out shamefully, or said that one awkward and misconstrued comment years ago – I would want to go back to “fix” those things. Kenneth acknowledges that he made mistakes that violated against his usual humble nature. But we would have gotten to know Kenneth better if the film had gone past acknowledgement and actually gone into the demonstration of him fixing things right.
85 Minutes. Rated R.
COMEDY / EASY-GOING / WEEKEND INDIE MATINEE
Film Cousins: “Harvey” (1950); “Happy Accidents” (2000); “Primer” (2004); “Just Like Heaven” (2005).
Official movie website: click here.