Review by Rachel Hansen (B+)
I think it's universally accepted that if you had the ability to time travel, you would. But would you be willing to answer a random classified ad calling for you to "bring your own weapons"?
Set in beautiful Washington, Safety Not Guaranteed shows us what happens when you throw together a group of people who don't quite fit in, and are okay with that. When reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) pitches an idea to do a story on a classified ad seeking a partner for a time travel expedition, he and two of the magazine interns, Darius and Arnau (brilliantly portrayed by Aubrey Plaza and Karan Soni) find themselves in the city of Ocean View, their only lead a PO Box number. Finding Kenneth, the ad's author, turns out to be the easy part; deciding if he's actually crazy is much harder.
After a spectacularly awful attempt to win Kenneth's trust, Jeff turns his attention to finding his high school crush, leaving Darius as the one to go undercover to get the story, and poor Arnau just trying to survive his internship before starting grad school. Darius' sarcastic, disaffected nature clicks with Kenneth's paranoid neurotic one and the two embark on a series of training exercises and tests in preparation for "the mission."
The film takes a premise that could have been too light and goofy and turns it into a journey where each of the characters are forced to come to terms with the life they have been living. Mark Duplass plays the might-be-a-genius-might-be-insane Kenneth with such a mix of sweetness, vulnerability and crazy that you find yourself really rooting for the guy. The movie is full of dry humor and some great moments, such as Darius' failed job interview at the film's opening, or a scene where Kenneth, believing the elderly couple following his car is a pair of government agents, pulls a rifle on them. Or basically anything Arnau says.
It's a pretty quiet movie - there are no big action sequences or flashy effects - but the lack of distractions allows the witty writing and superb acting to really shine through. As the characters show us, sometimes you have to open up and let the outside world in. After all, when the heat gets hot, it doesn't matter if the person by your side is "cool," you just need to be able to trust them.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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