Safety Not Guaranteed

Safety Not Guaranteed poster

A moment may be fleeting, but the memory lasts a lifetime. It’s an old adage, but remains relevant for certain circumstances. We all possess one moment in our lives of true happiness. From there, we either spend the rest of our lifetime trying to replicate that ecstasy, or we spend that time trying to reenact that singular moment. As some lead unfortunately tragic lives, the latter goal becomes an obsession. We see this obsession in Safety Not Guaranteed and how it makes a great film.



Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman stuck in a rut. She is working an unpaid internship at a magazine trying to find anything that will make her happy, but can’t. When she goes on assignment with Jeff (Jake Johnson) and Arnau (Karan Soni), she finds what she was looking for in the most unique of situations. The assignment: research an ad requesting a partner for time travel posted by Kenneth (Mark Duplass).

Two things allow SNG to be more than it realistically should have been: (1) it’s execution and (2) Jake Johnson. The first point is set up by the unpredictably predictable plot progression. Alliteration aside, I’ll explain. As the movie develops, you can accurately predict the events coming. You see Darius developing a close bond with Kenneth and know its conclusion. You see Jeff reuniting with an old flame and can follow its path. Yet, each of these conclusions is reached in a unique, unexpected way. This, along with sharp, poignant humor, keeps you engaged in the film.

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SNG could have easily fallen by the wayside had the effort not been made to keep the story fresh. Jeff, Arnau, and Darius have their own stories—less so Arnau—that provide ample support to the overarching theme of grasping that moment of happiness and preventing it from fading. It’s great fun.

The second point of emphasis is Jake Johnson’s portrayal of Jeff. I’d seen him in things sporadically throughout his career, but this was the first time he had a main role (Note: I don’t watch New Girl). Not only is he the primary source of humor, but he is also a strong source of heart for the film. Jeff is incapable of accepting any responsibility for his actions or emotions and Johnson is able to get that across in limited screen time. Honestly, I wish Jeff had more scenes to offset the dour facial expressions put forth by Plaza.

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Frankly, SNG is an indie darling with the same music, visuals, and tone as your run of the mill indie films. However, despite the classification, I found SNG to be immensely entertaining. One day Aubrey Plaza will play a different character and that day has yet to come. Additionally, Duplass also has trouble separating himself from his comedic styling and maintaining a serious demeanor when portraying Kenneth’s special kind of crazy. But when these are the only two pitfalls of the film, I’d say it’s a rousing success. Safety Not Guaranteed is undeniably worth your time.

  1. I was blown away by how much I liked it. Over on my blog I ranked it as my second favorite movie of 2012 behind Looper (I swear I am not that big on time travel movie but those two just rocked). And usually rom-com’s aren’t my thing but this one great simply because it was all ewwy-gooey lovey-dovey you know? Great write-up! I agree that Plaza and Duplass seem to be stuck playing these kind of character but I still liked them in this.

    • Exactly. I was expecting it to be mildly entertaining and nothing more, but I loved it. It seemed to sneak in and out of theaters so I feel like it may not have gotten a chance to be enjoyed. Good thing we have 9 million ways to watch it online.

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