Under the Radar?: “Safety Not Guaranteed”

“Safety Not Guaranteed” is a 2012 indie starring Aubrey Plaza as Darius Britt, a low-key young woman who “expects the worst and tries not to get her hopes up”.

Darius is working as an intern for a local magazine when she gets sent to assist on a humorous piece about a classified ad.

“Wanted: Somebody 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. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.”

Of course, what they find is not what they expect, and everyone involved winds up questioning the way they saw things at the start.

Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is a dour young woman. She has a thankless, low paying job as an intern, and still lives at home with her father. When a writer for the magazine (Jake M. Johnson) stumbles upon a classified looking for a companion for time travel, he suggests doing an investigative, humorous piece on it. His editor approves, and he takes Darius and another intern on the road to track down the man who placed the ad.

The ad’s author, Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass), turns out to be paranoid, slightly off-balance grocery store employee. Darius poses as a respondent in order to learn his motivation and the details behind the ad. He keeps his plans close to the vest, however, in order to ensure she’ll pass “training” and prove worthy to accompany him back in time. He teaches her to shoot, and even has her accompany him on a robbery in order to obtain parts for his time machine. But most of all, he gets to know her, sharing his own story and regrets that cause him to want to go back in time, and getting her to share hers.

What she doesn’t expect, however, is that she’ll star falling for him, in spite of the fact that his sanity is obviously suspect.

“Safety Not Guaranteed” has a really quirky humor to it. Plaza’s character is sarcastic and sardonic, but once she starts posing “undercover” in order to gain Calloway’s trust, she gets more upbeat and positive, and that hopefulness is funny because she’s so tentative about it. Duplass’ Calloway meanwhile, is a first class nutjob, training with weapons and doing shoulder rolls in his backyard, that kind of thing. Jake Johnson’s magazine writer character drinks, tries to get to the male intern laid for the first time, and generally blows off the assignment in order to try to reconnect with his high school sweetheart. The three of them provide a nice comedic mix that’ll keep you smiling throughout the movie’s quick runtime (86 minutes).

The film also has an underlying touch of melancholy, too, though. Calloway’s desire to travel back in time is motivated by regret, and several of the players try to connect with each other because they’re lonely. So while there’s certainly a bit of exploration about “would you go back if you could?”, the movie mainly about finding someone to connect with.

With a nice mix of humor, things to ruminate on and the requisite “is he crazy or his he not” element that you’d expect, “Safety Not Guaranteed” is a nice, low-key, feel good indie.

B+

34 thoughts on “Under the Radar?: “Safety Not Guaranteed”

  1. Great movie. I love that it is a time-travel movie based on a “true story” that’s not really so true. Aubrey Plaza is just as hilarious in this movie as she is in “Parks and Recreation.” Everyone else turns in fun performances, as well.

    • Yeah, she was really good. I’m not surprised that her particular style of humor appeals to you, either, good sir. :D

      Supposedly it was based on an ad that was a filler for the classifieds in Backwoods Home Magazine. Obviously the rest is fictional.

  2. I really enjoyed this too! So refreshing to have original ideas on screen. Everyone is great–I love Karan Soni, as the male intern–his little quips were hilarious (love his Star Wars joke about storm troopers :D).

    Definitely a good one!

    OH! Happy Thanksgiving!

    • To you too Nedi! Hope you have a great holiday. :D

      I thought all the Star Wars jokes were great. I loved the one later where Calloway asks her “Do you know what Star Wars is?” or something like that. Her reaction was great. She gave it like the perfect halfbeat pause of disbelief. LOL :D

  3. Hmmm. Sounds like something I will like. Seems similar to the British dark comedies I usually like. I tend to be a bit cautious with Indy films. I bought a few that were supposed to have been so good that they made it into national theater distribution. I didn’t see them before buying them. I was very disappointed.

    • Yeahhhhhh… I’m not sure I’d recommend the full out blind buy here, but its worth a rental for sure, and if you cross paths with it on cable or something (I caught it “on demand”) you wont do wrong.

      It does kind of have that sensibility about it, yeah. I can see that. I enjoyed it… its worth a shot. :D

    • I dunno. I mean, the end fit well with the small “indie” vibe, I thought. I kind of liked it. Yeah, definitely, now that I’m thinking about it, I definitely did enjoy the end the way they had it. Fun, I thought.

      • Agree to disagree on that one, good sir. I thought the ending was one of the more creative and surprising I’ve seen in a long, long time. But then again, maybe I’m easy to please.

    • Ha!! I think, if we actually HAD that ability, Vic, that we could set better objectives. ;)

      Of course that’s not to say that you shouldn’t attempt to rectify that error if you ever get the chance. :D I just don’t know if I’d tamper with the laws of nature to do it, lol

  4. A good movie, if only for the incredible performances from the cast, especially Plaza, who deserves a whole movie just for herself. She can nail the drama, the humor, and the heart of a story and I hope this gains her more exposure as a leading lady. Good review bud.

  5. I just downloaded this movie from Google Play. I haven’t gotten around to watching it, but with this upcoming holiday…I’m hoping to watch it. I love Aubrey Plaza, especially in Parks and Rec. Jake Johnson is becoming my favorite too.

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  7. Really enjoyed this one, too, Fogs. Definitely under the radar, and one of this year’s more entertaining films. Just wrote up a quick blurb on it myself and threw in a sneaky shoutout in your direction ;)

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  11. Great review Fogs. I really quite enjoyed this. Without mentioning any names (Chris), the ending really bolstered it into being a quirky charmer. I’m buying it soon for sure. :)

    Also, I thought I linked to this page on my latest post, but I don’t see the pingback anywhere here. Let me know if you received that.

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