'Safety Not Guaranteed' Review By John M
A jouney of discovery and growth that becomes a hidden Sci-fi gem.
Who would think this joke an editor of Backwoods Home Magazine put in his magazine would spread to popular culture and end up as the plot of an extremely low budget and independent film called Safety Not Guaranteed. I doubt John Silveira the editor who posted the joke ever did. To be honest I had never heard of the magazine add before until I learned about this film, and I had never heard of this film until I saw the article at IGN called 20 Great Movies You Might Have Missed in 2012. I saw the film title, the synopses and the trailer and something about all of that drew me to this great film and I watched it over the weekend. Who knew a film based on a joke article and a nonexistent budget would turn in to such a great film, and Safety Not Guaranteed is a great film.
The film is really short at only around one hour and twenty five minutes long, so I shouldn't have to give to many details about the plot. Of course you know the basic plot line of the film with copy of the add I posted above. Jeff Schwensen (Jake M. Johnson) a journalist a Seattle, WA heads to an sea side town called Ocean View along with two interns Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) to investigate and interview the man who posted the add. The story concentrates on disillusioned pessimist Darius who doesn't expect anything good out of life. When we first meet her she's interviewing for a job at a restaurant, but is too honest and doesn't get the job. She ends up at a magazine and heads to Ocean View with Jeff and Arnau. There she finds Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass) the man behind the add, and she follows him where Kenneth works at a local grocery store. These three don't expect anything from this trip as Jeff really came to look up his old girlfriend from his teenage years and don't really take Ken seriously, but as Darius goes undercover with Ken they form a bond and she begins to realize Ken is serious and what he says might be true. Wow a film with an actual original plot. This is the first film I've seen with a premise or plot like this and it works. Is the plot perfect? No it's not. I thought the character Arnau was out of place and wasn't developed well, and some might find the film boring. There are no great special effects you'd expect from a time travel film, and really the time travel elements aren't really important in the scheme of things it's about the characters and growth and experience throughout the film. The only real scene is the climax where Darius and Ken escape on their time machine boat.
The small cast is led by Aubrey Plaza who has mainly found a career doing independent films and guest appearances on TV shows. Aubrey brings Darius to life perfectly displaying her hopelessness with life in her eyes and face and how they slowly come to life throughout the film and her dealing with Ken. Jake Johnson I think is probably best known for his role on the Fox comedy New Girl. Jake plays the slacker Jeff perfectly as he finds he wants more in life after he meets his ex-Liz. Mark Duplass along with Aubrey steal the film. From what I've learned about Mark he's an actor, writer, director and producer who's done mainly independent and low budget films. Along with acting in this film he also produced it. As an actor Mark gives real depth to Ken and gives a really engaging performance. Probably the best known actor or actress in the film is Kristen Bell in a minor role. I remember when there was such praise for the actress with role Veronica Mars that was supposed to lunch the actress to major stardom, and has seemed to have fallen off the radar.
Is this film for everyone no I don't think so. The film has a really low budget that might be only around half a million. Also the time travel elements aren't important and only really make an appearance with the great and moving ending. I can understand some might find this gem of a film boring and uninteresting, but it's not. Safety Not Guaranteed is a heartwarming comedy of trying to find meaning and purpose along with an actually original plot, some minor sci-fi elements, great acting and good characters. I highly recommend everyone at least give this overlooked low budget film a try.