SXSW Review: ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ But a Great Time Is Promised

safety-not-guaranteedSafety Not Guaranteed is a charming, funny, heartfelt and romantic film that is, as of this writing, my hands-down favorite film of the year.

Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, Jake Johnson and Karan Soni and directed by Colin Trevorrow, the film begins in the with the writers of a Seattle Magazine searching for something interesting to feature in it’s upcoming issue. When someone suggests a story about mysterious classified ad, he (Johnson) and 2 partners (Plaza and Soni) travel to find the man and write up an expose about the craziness behind the ad.

But, once they arrive in the small Washington town, things change. They quickly find the guy, Kenneth (Duplass), a well-meaning but paranoid supermarket clerk. Kenneth thinks he can travel back in time but because its so dangerous this time he needs a partner. Posing as a potential buddy, Plaza, at first is skeptical but soon begins to question the fact that, you know, this may be real. Meanwhile, Johnson’s motives to cover the story come to light when he searches out his old high-school sweetheart.

The film is based on a true ad that has been floating around and been made fun of for years:

“WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. I have only done this once before.”

The filmmakers said in a Q&A after the film screened here at SXSW, that they thought that would make an interesting story. And they were right.

Duplass and Plaza make an odd and unique pair. They work well together and Plaza’s usual deadpan voice is used to its advantage, especially during the first part of the film. But when they delve into the romance aspect of the characters, you see a completely different part of her. And Duplass makes his goofy charm work wonderfully as the kooky Kenneth. 

Johnson as a womanizer searching for something more brings plenty of laughs to the film, especially when he is trying to school young Koni on the ways of wooing women.

There is one small and odd subplot that I honestly have no idea why is in the film regarding a mild deformity. The filmmakers could remove it and nothing would be lost, in fact, I think it would make the movie tighter but that honestly is my only problem with it. Maybe I’m just being nitpicky.

But otherwise, this is a film that you are going to love. I wish I could see it again right now.

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