Seen: At the Kendall Square Landmark Cinema in Cambridge.
When Seattle journalist Jeff (Jake M Johnson) spots a strange personal ad in the paper, he drags two interns with him on a trip outside the city to track the writer (Mark Duplass) down. He believes he can time travel and is looking for a partner to go back to 2001 with him, so intern Darius (Aubrey Plaza) poses as an interested party to get close to him. They "train" for combat and he gradually reveals his plan, while she begins to actually believe him. Meanwhile Jeff tries to reconnect with an old flame and Arnau (Karan Soni), the other intern, tries to not be corrupted.
Inspired by a real ad, Safety Not Guaranteed is one of those "quirky" indie comedies that's ultimately really enjoyable and heartfelt, instead of just bullshitty. I love love love Aubrey Plaza and it was great to see her in a starring role. She's skilled at taking the unemotional, sarcastic twentysomething stereotype and imbuing it with sincerity and relatability. As Darius she's quick-witted and kind, and her relationship with purported time traveler Kenneth is well-developed. I haven't seen Duplass in much (although I just found out he was the lead singer of Volcano, I'm Still Excited!!, a band I dug in high school) and have always been put off by his doofy face, but he was pretty ok here. He fits the role of dweeby, possibly crazy guy who is also sympathetic and likable somehow. Their scenes together are fun and entertaining, and the audience is seriously questioning (along with Darius) if he actually does know what he's doing because the possibility of time travel is too tempting to wholly dismiss.
Unfortunately I found the subplot concerning Jeff and Arnau much less interesting. Jeff is just a sexist asshole in the throes of a midlife crisis, and I didn't give a shit about his stupid problems. I know the whole thing with him hooking up with his high school girlfriend and remembering his glory days was meant to parallel the time travel notions in Darius and Kenneth's story, but I don't think it worked as well as the filmmakers thought. I liked Karan Soni as the nerdy, unsure student Arnau, but his character is never given the focus or development he deserved. Mostly, I just hated Jeff. What a dick. (And don't try to convince me that by realizing he could date a lady even though she wasn't as hot as she was when she was a teenager makes him redeemable. Nope.)
Safety Not Guaranteed is half a really fun movie, and I enjoyed it a lot as I watched it. But the more I think about how the subplots were handled, and how they left less time to address some weird questions raised by the main narrative, the more frustrated I am. It's definitely worth seeing though, for Aubrey Plaza being the best and for a lot of good jokes, and for some nice, ambiguous science-fiction undertones.
Pair This Movie With: Just to be silly I'm going with Trancers, a hilariously bad 80's time travel thriller.