Safety Not Guaranteed Movie Review
With a low budget but a lot of imagination and talent, director Trevorrow and writer Connolly create a deceptively simple comedy that's one of the most entertaining films of the year. It's so cleverly written that every moment of the film is hugely engaging, and it's so perfectly played by its cast that we can't help but fall for the likeable, flawed characters.
Set in Washington state, the story centres on Darius (Plaza), a sardonic Seattle magazine intern whose life derailed when she was 14, after her mother's death. So her interest is piqued when she hears about a classified ad asking for an assistant on a time travel mission ("Bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed"). She accompanies arrogant journalist Jeff (Johnson) and fellow intern Arnau (Soni) to a seaside town to write up the story for the magazine, but once they track down the ad's author Kenneth (Duplass), nothing goes as expected.
Each of these three magazine reporters has a full-bodied story, expertly set within the larger investigation of whether Kenneth is nuts or not. All of these characters are caught between their past and the present, exploring who they once were, who they are and who they want to be, which makes them easy to identify with even as they do some amusingly silly things. And the filmmakers cleverly refuse to play into our expectations, keeping us guessing about where the movie is heading. So each scene bristles with possibility, and each twist and turn of the plot and side-plots is both thrilling and hilarious.
The film has a loose, improvised feel to it, which makes even the spicier characters endearing. At the centre, Plaza draws on her familiar disaffected Parks and Recreation persona to hold the whole film together and take us on this comical adventure with her. She gives each scene an edge of black comedy as well as a surprising underlying sweetness that never gets cloying due to the brisk pace, anarchic humour and resonant emotion. Like the characters, we feel like we have been carried effortlessly into an adventure that we never want to end.