Safety Not Guaranteed

500 Days Of Film Reviews Drama, Safety Not Guaranteed, Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass and Jake Johnson

When an unusual classified ad inspires three cynical Seattle magazine employees - Darius (Aubrey Plaza), Jeff (Jake Johnson) and Arnau (Karan Soni) - to look for the story behind it, they discover a mysterious eccentric named Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a likable but paranoid supermarket clerk, who believes he’s solved the riddle of time travel and intends to depart again soon.

 

Together, they embark on a hilarious, smart, and unexpectedly heartfelt journey that reveals how far believing can take you.

Is It Any Good?

Safety Not Guaranteed is the funny and utterly charming debut film from writer Derek Connolly and director Colin Trevorrow. Using the concept of time travel, the movie explores themes of regret, love and trust. 

 

The idea for Safety Not Guaranteed was inspired by a real advert, which appeared in the survivalist magazine, Backwoods Home, in the mid-1990’s. Having been posted online (and becoming an internet sensation), Connolly came across the ad in 2007 and immediately felt the story’s cinematic potential. 

 

Initially, Connolly envisaged his film to be a tale of male-bonding. However, after he saw Aubrey Plaza in Judd Apatow’s Funny People, he decided to write a character specifically for her and take his movie in a different direction.  

 

“My first thought was what if the guy who placed the ad was sincere and really wants to go back in time, yet everyone is making fun of him,” recalls Connolly. “There was something really sad about it all. What if he is really lamenting something from his past that he wants to go back and fix. That’s what drew my attention. The title was perfect, tying the whole idea together.”

 

Connolly approached his writing partner Colin Trevorrow (they met while at New York University and had both been interns at Saturday Night Live) with a first draft of his script and the pair then worked on the film together. 

 

“I thought it was a really inventive way to approach a time travel movie and the emotional needs that would cause someone to want to time travel, so we decided to try to track down the author of the ad to hopefully get the rights to use it,” says Trevorrow. 

 

They found the ad’s author, a writer living in the mountains of Oregon, and after gaining his trust over a period of years, he granted the filmmakers the rights to use his ad as the basis for their movie.

 

 

Trevorrow and Connolly’s next step was to secure Plaza’s involvement. “I was sent the script and told it was written specifically for me,” she explains. “I didn’t know the writer or director but I really liked the story so said okay. The transformation that my character goes through is what really spoke to me.”

 

Plaza is brilliant in this role. Darius is movie's poignant heart - we relate to her as she gradually understands the lure of time travel and that there is more to Kenneth than meets the eye.

 

The casting of Kenneth was, of course, equally important for the success of Safety Not Guaranteed. Therefore, the decision to approach Mark Duplass was inspired. Few actors could convey Kenneth’s lovable eccentricity as well as Duplass does in this film. 

 

“The script struck me as a great underdog story,” says Duplass. “Two of my favorite films are Rocky and American Movie. They share protagonists who the world seems to be against but they have purity and passion of heart in the way they go about doing things. Kenneth has that, but has it in a way that is at once heartwarming and ridiculous. It was the combination of the absurd and the heartfelt that drew me into his character.”

 

 

In addition to the relationship between Darius and Kenneth, Safety Not Guaranteed also explores the potential of youth and the regret of age in hilarious scenes with Karan Soni’s Arnau and Jake Johnson’s Jeff. 

 

Johnson is scene stealingly good in this movie. Jeff is a hard character to like - he is arrogant and self-obsessed. However, it is hard not to warm to him as his inner vulnerability is revealed.

 

“Jeff acts like he doesn’t believe, but deep down he does,” explains Johnson. “My character is really a jerk but deep down before whatever happened to him, I don’t think he was a bad person. I can relate to him because sometimes it feels so good to say what you’re feeling, not to care, to know that you’re saying the wrong thing in certain moments, and to celebrate that.

 

“My character thinks he’s the coolest guy ever. I think he understands the deeper values in life but they’re not his goal. In this film he does get turned around when he realizes there are more important things than an Escalade car. It kicks him in the face a little and he remembers who he is.”

 

Trevorrow and Connolly's blend of the ridiculous and the profound drew me in to Safety Not Guaranteed. Their movie has a wonderful sense of humanity at its core and themes of trust and regret that are genuinely thought provoking. This charming and funny gem of a movie made me want to believe in the unbelievable.  

 

Random Observations

If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

 

Have you seen Safety Not Guaranteed? 

 

If you have, what did you think of this movie? Let me know in the comments section below or come over for a chat on Twitter or Facebook!

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