A magazine tracks down the mysterious poster of a strange advertisement regarding time travel in Safety Not Guaranteed.
This is one of those surprising “can do” types of films that doesn’t seem like it has a chance only to keep snuggling up to your emotions and catching you by surprise time and again.
Much about the film seems unpolished. The opening premise seems very much contrived and extremely unlikely. It’s essentially the story of a girl floating through life who interns for a trendy niche magazine. One day, while trying to come up with a new hot story, a staff member suggests one based on an ad placed in their classifieds section. The ad states:
WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.
Obviously the poster is a bit off their rocker but wouldn’t it be interesting to talk with someone who might actually believe they can do this? The boss agrees and the staff member and two interns (one our leading heroine played by Aubrey Plaza) go off to find out who this person is and what it’s all about.
Darius (Plaza) is a troubled soul who just hasn’t found her connection with this life. It’s all about going through the motions for her. She’s awkward and sad but you can just feel the possibilities bubbling beneath her surface. When she meets the “time-traveler” of course all of her challenges become major positives towards getting the story—and her own narrative in the process.
It’s the journey that takes place in the here and now that’s the entire wonder of this story. Every character feels entirely genuine. We grow with each of them and really feel like we’ve gotten to know them personally, and in ways, intimately. Each of the four primary characters (and one minor character) find a way to reach into your psyche and carefully touch a memory or feeling and bring it to the fore allowing you to relate to them as one handles and observes a delicate flower. The transformation that takes place is both subtle and startling. One moment we’re not really interested and the next you want to reach out and hug the character (and be hugged).
As I said, there are definitely moments where the film feels campy and a bit off but in hindsight it seems even these moments weren’t so much mistakes but by design. Every single time I thought the movie was going to go too far it simply (and cleverly) brought it back a notch winning the audience over in the process. It does this so well that I can’t even recall the moments before each conversion.
There are also special moments in this film where time itself seems to stop and we get to pause with it to bask in the warming ambiance of the moment. It’s all quite well done.
Even the music is spot-on. I wasn’t familiar with any of the songs and yet they all felt entirely familiar and seamless.
The film is one where time and again you’ll wonder, “Do I believe?” By the end I believed but don’t misread that. I believed in the journey and this has nothing to do with any potential time travel. How can anyone dislike a movie that makes you smile so broadly and so giddy inside? I certainly can’t. My only tiny complaint is that I wanted just one more scene but, I suspect, that would have been a cop-out.