Safety Not Guaranteed: Film Review

“Alright, give me the lesbian and the Indian.”

And thus the journey into time travel begins. Or so they think, “they” being three jaded Seattle magazine writers (Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, and Aubrey Plaza) who want something to inspire a real writing adventure.

They respond to a classified ad in the paper that reads as follows:

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

As you might expect, the journey and adventure that ensues is really not about time travel (well, mostly it’s not) but is instead about the pursuit of the impossible. The impossible, in this instance, emanates from the stultified heart and mind of the man who has placed the ad in the paper: Kenneth (Mark Duplass), an ordinarily misanthropic low-level convenience store clerk who is more paranoid than his station in life would seem to justify. He’s worried about making amends in the past so that he can live with himself in the present. The future is of little consequence to him (or anyone in the story) since it is the future and the promise of humanity is that only terrible things are to come. So why bother?

The film is from the producers of Little Miss Sunshine and it has much the same feeling of isolation and warmth that the movie that made Abigail Breslin did. There’s much about longing, yearning for the impossible, and being grateful for the ordinary that the film imparts upon its audience without being too treacly or didactic about it.

Most of all, you’ll be amazed at how a movie with almost no special effects, CGI, or 3D glasses requirement will envelope you in a spirit of urgency and excitement that only the best adventure stories are able to conjure. Yet another winning film in what has thus far been a surprisingly strong 2012 Summer movie season.

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