When I was ten years old, I thought I could build a time machine from some manipulated Pepsi can aluminum, some watch parts (taken from my father’s watch), some wire and a small wooden crate I called my fort. I had just seen the 1960 film adaptation of HG Wells’ “The Time Machine” on channel 11. Living in the Pacific Northwest, you don’t just get “used” to the rain, especially as a child. It simply becomes a part of you. I spent 90% of my time outside, rain or no. On this particular day, it was a Sunday, I trudged outside in my rain slickers. Under my arm, I carried all of the components “necessary” to build my time machine. I spent all day out there. I got really wet. I got really cold. Eventually, my mother called me in for dinner and my project was abandoned. The wooden crate that once acted as my fort still remains in the nut tree grove behind my parent’s house.
Safety Not Guaranteed is a charming, fantastical romantic comedy that explores what happens when a cynical journalist, Jeff (played by Jake M. Johnson) decides to write an article about the author of a unique classified ad. It reads:
Wanted: 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. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.
Filmed in my home state of Washington, everything about Safety Not Guaranteed feels original and yet somehow nostalgic, somehow futuristic but set in the past. Aubrey Plaza stars as Jeff’s 20-something disaffected intern, Darius, who is sent in to make a connection with the classified ad’s author after Jeff’s insincerity insults him. Darius, whose mother died when Darius was only 14, is a convincing enough candidate to Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who agrees to take her on as his time traveling partner. Kenneth believes he is being followed, believes he is being recorded. He is wanted for the theft of government and private property. The heat, as he likes to say, is getting hot.
The humor in the dialogue is dry and witty. You’ll either be spitting out your drink or you’ll be straight-faced and bored. There’s no middle ground. It makes the dialogue between the characters at once edgy and flat. A perfect mix. I found it delightful (thank you screenwriter, Derek Connolly). The film won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at Sundance, so I’m not alone in the gush of accolades.
As the film unfolds, you find yourself secretly wanting it to be true. All of it. Kenneth is a train wreck who wears a prosthetic ear and a headband, rolls around his back yard in the rain attempting to improve his physical condition by running ridiculous obstacle courses. He’s training himself to handle and fire guns. All because he wants to go back and fix something in his past. Who doesn’t wish they could do that? Hell, everything about Kenneth makes you simultaneously scoff and spasm in painful fits of empathy. You find yourself disbelieving your belief and vice versa all the way until the end of the film. It captures your imagination and refuses to let you discount it. It’s this quality that makes Safety Not Guaranteed so damn charming.
Official site: Safety Not Guaranteed