Safety Not Guaranteed
Would you be willing to do anything for the person you love? Everybody has their own little quirks that make them different from John or Joe. But what about those mad scientists you see from a 1950’s B-movie? Sure, they had crazy ideas (whether it was growing giant ants trying to destroy Superman), but their still people. You might end up siting behind one in a diner and never realize. Mad Scientists are characters I love because they represent the innovation that much of society lacks today. I would love to read a news report about a doctor who discovered an alien or put together a bunch of body parts to create life. Though socially unacceptable, these people posses a never-ending desire to change the world.
Time travel is a popular subject amongst the mad. It’s a stereotype that’s been done to death, but it’s something that everyone would really love to see. Maybe some people want to be tourists, maybe some want to study their favorite historical period, or maybe some want to change their lives. If Doc Brown can make a Delorian to travel to 2015 in Back to the Future, then Kenneth can make his own machine in Safety Not Guaranteed.
In this little independent quirky story, our scientist Kenneth (played by Mark Duplass) has placed an ad in the local newspaper seeking a partner in his second time travel trip. A Seattle comes across the classified and sends a writer to investigate. Jeff (played by Jake M. Johnson) tags along two interns, young college student Arnau (played by Karan Soni) and disillusioned graduate Darius Brit (played by Parks and Recreation’s Aubrey Plaza). Darius hates her life, living at home with her father and no paying job. Despite not wanting to go, she does only because she has nothing else to do.
Once ending up in Ocean View, they search for the man behind the ad. After identifying him, Darius is sent to respond to the ad. Her job was to see if this guy was pulling a prank, or if he’s insane, or may have to key to time travel. This is what makes Kenneth work; he is a very unpredictable man. One minute he’ll talk about his martial arts training, and then he’ll ask if the young woman has a “mission” for her travel. He seems to scare everyone else, but the more time we spend with him, the more I want to whether or not he’s insane.
Safety Not Guaranteed is something like “Juno meets time travel”. For a film that explores large science breakthroughs, it feels small and more personal. The experiment plays a big part, but this movie is all about characters and their feeling of being out of place. During our toughest times, we can all feel out of time. Maybe you would rather see a brighter future, or you would want to go back to your glory days. For a movie that picked a stereotypical subject, this feels very different.
I’ll give this four and a half classic time machines out of five. Kenneth is another mad scientist that I’ll remember. Screenwriters often forget that characters are more important then story. I felt very connected to these people and seeing this movie is something I would travel back to.