Safety Not Guaranteed
Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson, Kristen Bell, Karan Soni, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Jenica Bergere, Jeff Garlin Club, IFI, Dublin, 86 min
A lo-fi, defiantly indie-schmindie, sci-fi romcom from Sundance central – winner of the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award, no less – Safety Not Guaranteed began life as a comic ad in the satirical magazine Backwoods.
The original wording is preserved here: “Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. PO Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza is superbly deadpan as a magazine intern sent out with cynical elder reporter Jeff (New Girl’s Jake Johnson) and studious science major Arnau (Karan Soni) to find the person or persons
who placed the advertisement. Somewhat inevitably, they turn out to be played by Mark Duplass in one of that actor’s most likeable roles.
While undercover, our spiky young heroine discovers that the entire barmy venture is motivated by lost love. It does not take long for her to go soft on her subject. Unhappily, however, Mr Duplass has not been entirely truthful and seems unable or unwilling to produce anything remotely scientific to back up his claims. Is he holding out or just plain crazy?
Newcomer Derek Connolly’s nifty screenplay keeps us guessing until the final reel. The smallness of the budget is disguised by Benjamin Kasulke tidy digital DOP work and a constellation of hip cameos –(24’s Mary Lynn Rajskub, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin, Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell).
Conceptually, the results are not quite up there with Primer or Looper, but Colin Trevorrow’s winning debut feature certainly merits a cosy spot between Midnight in Paris and Another Earth. Cute.