When the heat gets hot – Safety Not Guaranteed review

Safety Not Guaranteed – Starring Aubrey Plaza, Mark Duplass, and Jake Johnson. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Rated M. By Simon Miraudo.

If you like your science-fiction lo-fi, and your coming of age parables with a handy technological metaphor at their core, Colin Trevorrow’s Safety Not Guaranteed is the movie you’ve been waiting for (or perhaps traveled forward in time to discover). Combining the dual snarky talents of Aubrey Plaza (of TV’s Parks and Recreation) and Jake Johnson (New Girl), and recruiting the most appealing comic talent in America, Mark Duplass (Your Sister’s Sister), this sweet little flick offers much more than your typical indie film. All three of these stars have previously participated in their fair share of small flicks with ambitions so microscopic they may not even have mass. Safety Not Guaranteed does not fall into that category.

Plaza stars as Darius, a directionless intern tasked with assisting cynical journo Jeff (Johnson) on a particularly odd story. Out by the fringes of Seattle resides a gentleman by the name of Kenneth (Duplass), who believes he has invented a time travel machine, and has placed a classified ad seeking a potential helper on his fourth-dimension jumping exploits. Jeff, Darius, and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) head to Kenneth’s small town, where they discover he’s regarded as a mostly harmless weirdo. It soon becomes apparent that Jeff is less concerned with the story as he is trying to reconnect with high school girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere), especially as he draws closer to middle age. It’s up to Darius to befriend Kenneth, earn his trust, and be selected as his future companion.

With a quartet of potentially pathetic lead characters – Arnau is a virgin, and Jeff protests against this thoroughly – there’s a concern that the picture might make a mockery of them, and that’s rarely fun to watch. Writer-director Trevorrow handles them with care. But that doesn’t mean he treats them with kids’ gloves, either; each is called out for their immaturity, and they all get their opportunity to grow into the adulthood they’ve been frequently putting off.

The feature is never better than in its closing moments, where a miraculous twist and a beautiful final monologue from Duplass hammers home the overriding theme: that companionship is always preferable to loneliness, particularly “when the heat is hot.” Hardly revolutionary, Safety Not Guaranteed’s miracle lies in its fond characterisations. These guys are good company, in this time or any other.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s other reviews here.

Safety Not Guaranteed plays the Perth International Arts Festival from January 14 to January 27, 2013.

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