Aubrey Plaza is one of my favorite television actresses. Her role in Parks & Recreation is biting yet somehow tender. She finally gets a leading role in the futuristic independent romance Safety Not Guaranteed.
The story is of Darius (Aubrey Plaza) a young woman who has an internship at a Seattle magazine. At a pitch meeting, senior reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) suggests that they do a story on a strange ad that ran in the paper. The ad is looking for a fellow time traveler to make the journey back into time. They see the article as one of those ‘local color’ features that puts the more eclectic spin on some of the stranger residents of the area.
The three travel to the seaside community and find that the man who posted the ad is Kenneth (Mark Duplass). They decide that Darius needs to approach Kenneth to get closer to the truth behind the man. The more she gets to know Kenneth, the more she begins to like him. She just wants to know why he wants to go back in the past.
At the same time, Jeff wanted to go back to the seaside community to reconnect with an old girlfriend Liz (Jenica Bergere). It seems that Jeff waxes nostalgic about the first woman of his youth and wants to feel that spark once again. There is also Arnau (Karan Soni) a shy young man who cannot connect with women. Jeff wants to take Arnau under his wing and show him how to be a man. The film is about finding love and believing in the incredible odds against finding romance. It is a charming fable about the possibility of what is real.
As much as I like her, the problem with Aubrey Plaza is that she is basically playing the same character as she does on TV. There is not much range in her performance. I do not know if she can actually be other characters. Though she tries, there is little warmth in the performance. It is kind of hard to believe that she falls for Kenneth so fast.
Jake Johnson is best known as his work on The New Girl. In this role, he is doing much of the same shtick. Though he has the loveable rogue cad down pat, one wonders if he is not just playing to his strengths and refusing to take an acting chance.
Truly the best performance comes from Jenica Bergere in the smallest of roles, that of Liz. The relationship between her and Jake Johnson showed some promise but it little explored. I think that writer Derek Connolly missed the mark by focusing his concentration on the other couple.
The other problem with the film is the lack of a solid story. The screenplay starts out well, with some quirky dialogue and interesting situations. Then the work settles in and bogs down. There are way too many montages in this short work.
Safety Not Guaranteed might be considered a science fiction film but it is more of a romance in the milieu of the fantastic. While it sags in the middle, it does have a warm heart. In a summer of CGI blockbusters, it is nice little diversion.