Film Review – Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
Safety Not Guaranteed is a story from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine, a film which I include along with Napoleon Dynamite and Dogtooth in my holy trinity of classic ‘awkward dance routine’ films. It’s semi-based upon a true story, in that the original idea came from a genuine magazine advert which ended up as part of a viral video online. The makers wondered what might happen the advert turned out to be true, and the story started to take shape. Incidentally, they did track down the guy who placed the ad and optioned it, which seems like the right thing to do to my mind.
The story focuses on a young intern at a magazine name Darius (Aubrey Plaza), who is somewhat introverted and still dealing with the death of her mother a few years previously. She is assigned to go with Jeff (Jake Johnson) and Arnau (Karan Soni) to investigate the story behind the mysterious advert looking for a time travel partner. Thanks to some simple detective work, she soon tracks down the advert’s writer Kenneth (Mark Duplass) and gradually the three investigators begin to wonder whether he is actually on to something.
It’s not often that you watch a film and really have no idea where it’s likely to go, and that’s one of the things that I really liked about Safety Not Guaranteed. I could think of several different ways it could have concluded, and in the end I was still a little surprised. There were plenty of amusing moments (Jeff on seeing his ex-girlfriend – ‘It was like— the years have not been kind to her. Like time took a shit all over her face‘) and a few more reflective ones that stopped it being too silly. In a way, there are quite a few similarities to Napoleon Dynamite – some of the characters could have been lifted straight from there, there’s even a time travel parallel and a bit of a ‘boy meets girl’ subplot. Unlike Napoleon Dynamite the focus is on Darius, the most ‘normal’ person in the film, and her journey from the distant teenager at the beginning of the film to someone taking hold of life and making their own choices about where they want to go.
It’s funny, it’s touching in places, the story has enough twists to keep it interesting and the cast are all well chosen. It’s not an all-time masterpiece, but as an entertaining piece of cinema you could do a lot worse. If you liked Napoleon Dynamite, Little Miss Sunshine, etc then you should certainly add this one to your ‘must see’ list.