“SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED” My rating: B Opens wide on June 29)
86 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“Safety Not Guaranteed” is an indie sci-fi movie.
Well, not really.
What it actually is is an indie relationship movie that’s pretending it’s a sci-fi movie.
It’s sort of a bait-and-switch situation, but I can’t complain because the film from director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly is consistently weird and goofily amusing and it features yet another good perf from Mark Duplass, who is seriously courting overexposure (currently you can see him in “Darling Companion,” “Your Sister’s Sister” and “People Like Us”).
It begins in the offices of a Seattle magazine where top reporter, the pompous and self-centered Jeff (Jake M. Johnson), suggests doing a story on the mysterious guy who ran a personals ad looking for someone to accompany him on a time travel trip. This is a serious offer, the ad says. Participants must provide their own weapons. “Safety not guaranteed.”
Jake brings along as his assistants two of the magazine’s summer interns. One is a dweeby Indian-American computer geek named Arnau (Karan Soni) who only took the gig because his college resume needs some diversity. The other is Darius (Aubrey Plaza), a confirmed pessimist and cynic. She’s a sullen, sarcastic wraith in Goth Girl black.
Their stakeout of the post office box where prospective time travelers are to send their inquiries leads them to Kenneth (Duplass), a socially inept fellow who immediately takes a dislike to Jeff, who assigns Darius to infiltrate Kenneth’s paranoid, technology-obsessed world.
Kenneth puts her through some basic training (target practice, karate). He says he wants to go back in time to save a girlfriend who was killed. Their meetings are in weird places and often late at night because Kenneth is sure he’s under surveillance.
Darius, Jake and Arnau assume that Kenneth’s a harmless basket case. At least until he brings Darius along for a late-night burglary of some lasers from a local tech firm. And then there are the two men-in-black types who actually are following Kenneth.
Before it’s all over “Safety Not Guaranteed” turns into a sweet little love story (Duplass really is one of the more loveble doofuses in movies today).
Periodically the film breaks away from Kenneth and Darius to follow Jake as he looks up an old girlfriend (Jenica Bergere) and hooks up the virginal Arnau with some local high school hotties.
It ends with…well, I won’t say. But it is one of the most satisfying movie endings I’ve seen in a while.
Duplass is endearing, Plaza has the disillusioned young woman thing down cold, and the the film has a sneaky way of pulling you deeper and deeper into Kenneth’s fantasy.
| Robert W. Butler