Most indie movies involve quirky, slightly off center, lovable weirdos who are outcasts from society, down on their luck, or just generally awkward. Safety Not Guaranteed is no different. Its lovable weirdo is a self-professed time traveler who believes he’s under surveillance by the government and utilizes a classified ad to seek out a companion for a time jump. He’s paired up with an equally weird cast of characters and a perfectly awkward love story in this indie tale.
Kenneth (Mark Duplass), our time traveler, posts an ad saying: “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.” The ad catches the eye of cynical magazine writer Jeff (Jake Johnson of New Girl fame), who packs up two interns, Arnau and Darius (Karan Soni and indie darling Aubrey Plaza), to go track down this nut job and make fun of his crackpot belief in time travel.
Darius is sent to investigate, mostly because she’s a pretty girl and they’re sure that she can flirt Kenneth into giving them a good article. After pretending to like Kenneth, she finds that she actually does like Kenneth. A lot. Enough to believe in his time travel theory and to break away from her group of disillusioned journalists.
There’s a B plot involving Jeff and his high school sweetheart reuniting after all these years, but it feels a bit tacked on. Jeff’s living in the past too, we get it, but it doesn’t seem to fit, which is unfortunate because Johnson is such a natural comedian and one of the funniest people in the film.
Duplass does pull off the lovable crazy dude quite well. We’re never quite sure if Kenneth is bat shit crazy or if he really does know a work around to that whole space-time continuum thing. His romance with Plaza is sweet, though sometimes a bit of a stretch. She buys into his theories almost immediately and, while we’ve set up that she’s an awkward social misfit too, it can still be a little hard to accept.
Overall, Safety Not Guaranteed presents a sweetly funny story about two outcasts falling in love and manages to avoid too much of the “indie syndrome” of quirky girls falling for quirky boys. These actors are talented enough to not make it too sweet or to clichéd, so it’s still a pretty fun adventure.