No Sense in Nonsense
So as far as I gathered the idea for this film came from a real ad that was looking for someone to travel back in time with whoever wrote it. The ad was apparently featured on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and spawned an internet meme. Also it obviously turned out to be a joke in the end, but this film takes that ad and asks what if it was not a joke?
That is pretty much what “Safety Not Guaranteed” takes as it’s jumping off point and follows a journalist and two interns as they investigate such an add. It focuses primarily on Darius (Aubrey Plaza), one of the interns, and her relationship with Kenneth (Mark Duplass) the time travel guy, and the better they get to know each other the less clear it becomes if Kenneth’s just a crazy person or just a really vulnerable and misunderstood guy. Or maybe even the real deal? Well that gets answered by the end and the ending they go with struck me as the most predictable one. But it is the ending that will probably stir up most discussions.
The film kind of flips its own rules with this end and it’s trying hard not to be predictable. But by the very formula that the film adheres to it has no other choice. Just consider the alternative and it’s instantly clear, it would have to completely destroy the formula it follows and everything it’s been building up to.
This makes me a bit furious to be honest because I can’t help but feel that indie films are becoming as bankrupt in it’s storytelling as its studio counterparts, since they seem to be willing to do anything to preserve a happy wholesome ending. I’ve got nothing against happy endings but like this it feels forced to fit a certain formula. It is my belief that every story has its own shape and form, and “Safety Not Guaranteed” seems like it has misshapen its story in order to squeeze it in to a quirky feel-good indie comedy format. I am aware that the alternative is a completely different movie but I can’t shake a feeling that there’s something very dishonest about the film as it is right now.
And again the same issue I had with “The Squid and the Whale” creeps up with this film as it has that stock indie aesthetic. Actually I feel that I’m being slightly unfair to “The Squid and the Whale” when comparing it to this film, as it’s visual and cinematic qualities are much more its own than it’s the case with “Safety Not Guaranteed”. So its biggest flaw by far is the same one that most modern American indie films have, and especially indie comedies, it’s cinematically bland and uninspired.
Even as I was writing those last two paragraphs I knew that I was overreacting a bit, because as flawed as the film is it does the quirky indie comedy thing quite well. It’s not “500 Days of Summer”, not by a long-shot, but it is what it is and it works to a manageable degree. It's an entertaining movie that, for me, is saved by the actors and their chemistry and delivery, but unfortunately this is also a film that I’ll probably forget as soon as I'm done with this article.
Aubrey Plaza - Darius
Mark Duplass - Kenneth
Jake Johnson - Jeff
Karan Sorni - Arnau
Jenica Bergere - Liz
Safety Not Guaranteed on IMDb