Safety Not Guaranteed mixes deadpan comedy, love, and scifi to look at how our past can cast a shadow on our present, but only as much as we allow.
Safety Not Guaranteed is not a brand new flick, originally premiering in 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, but with a limited release history it would have been easy to miss a chance to see this quirky flick. It might not click with everyone, especially if you don’t click well with main actress Aubrey Plaza’s humor style, but there is some fun to be had in this oddball romance that is anything but stereotypical. For anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet; Spoilers Alert!
The plot is pretty simple, following Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) a college graduate who is still trying to figure out her life. Darius is an intern at Seattle Magazine but desperately wants more, however she isn’t quite sure what that means. During a routine planning meeting for the upcoming issue of the magazine, Darius volunteers to help with an article about this peculiar ad in a local newspaper:
“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
The staff writer Darius is working with, Jeff, assumes the bulk of the article will come from the owner of the ad being crazy, and turns the assignment into an out of town vacation. Darius is intrigued by the ad and by the man who placed it. To pursue the story she ends up spending time with the potential time traveler, Kenneth Calloway. His oddities and eccentricities are just enough to draw her in which leads the two of them closer and closer.
Rising action is spurred on by the revelation that Kenneth lied to Darius about his reason for wanting to go back in time, and Darius’ lie of omission about being a reporter. The film ends with the pair owning up to their own lies and a final declaration of love for one another as the duo is whisked away in a ball of light emanating from Kenneth’s time machine. The bizarre circumstances of the cliffhanger might be too much for some but it fit in well with the feel of the film.
While it hits on the major parts of romantic drama and indie comedy that we have all come to know, it does so in some unique ways. Our heroine does not fall into stereotypes of this genre, with Aubrey Plaza’s deadpan comedy styling Darius is much more Millennial Hipster than star struck lover. As a millennial myself, connecting with her character is easy.
Kenneth Calloway, portrayed by Mark Duplass, hasn’t quite succeeded at life but not for trying. His drive for wanting to go back comes from an accident that resulted from unrequited love. Anyone who has felt in any way as a social outcast can relate to him, and this makes his character a lot of fun. The weirdness of the character feels so real that it would be hard to believe that it was all acting.
Time travel is a major plot point but is really just the means for pointing out the desire to change the bad things that happen in our lives, a desire everyone shares. The main characters, and supporting characters, explore this from various angles all coming to a similar revelation; being obsessed with the past too easily ruins our present.
As men we constantly turn our attention towards the past; whether it’s romantic mistakes, choices about work, family issues, or relationships with friends we allow them to utterly derail our lives. We look back and remind ourselves of our greatest failures and biggest regrets, pointlessly hoping for some way to change them all. Instead of progress, our forward motion is hindered because our eyes are set on the horizon we already left instead of the one that has yet to be explored.
It feels like I fall victim to this more often than others, specifically in two of those areas; past relationships and work opportunities. I play devil’s advocate with myself with stunning proficiency, easily cutting the foundations of my life down to meaningless specks and equating them to zero. It’s a pattern in my life, one that I constantly am trying to learn from.
Almost weekly my mind to meanders its way to focusing on my past forays into the professional world; despite my relative youth, I have had several that lead to dead ends mostly because of my own decisions. These events I have come to call as failures often drain my vitality when I spend too much time focused on them, and instead of looking toward the future with hope I am buried under a mountain of self doubt. This lack of previous achievement, if allowed to become the root of my life, would easily drown out every spark of hope for future success.
In regards to relationships, this is one that I have become much better at handling, but in its heyday it could cripple my confidence with ease. Looking back on my idiotic displays of affection and attempts at gaining the attention of a pretty face would make me despair, in those moments it was easy to envision a future of loneliness. Thankfully this pattern was broken long enough to let someone into my life, and this moment of not letting my past define me brought the best thing ever into my life; my wife. If I had always looked back at those lost loves, I never would have found her and my life would not have turned out as wonderfully as it has.
It’s a rather simple lesson that we have all been told at one time or another, but one that never quite sticks after the brief moment of clarity it brings with it. We all have to let go of the past. There isn’t always a deadline on it but if you carry the weight of all those years forever it will wear you down till there’s nothing left. The best way to spur on forward motion is to stay focused on that mysterious horizon ahead of us, and remind ourselves that the beauty that lies ahead is far greater than what we left behind. Darius found it in the oddball stranger Kenneth and a new exciting adventure, Kenneth found it in someone loving him for who he is, and Jeff realized that the past is not always as amazing as we remember it.
The thing that brings us out of a self-deprecating cycle probably won’t be as awesome as the outlandish plot of Safety Not Guaranteed, but that doesn’t mean it will be any less exhilarating. That new job, random opportunity, or special someone could be just around the corner waiting to propel us into exploring the future. We just have to be willing to let go of the baggage that is holding us back.
Photo Credit: Trailer