tek's rating:

Safety Not Guaranteed (R)
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This is one of those movies where I'm not quite sure what category would be best for placing my review. Obviously I've gone with "quirky," but it also could have been "art film" or "serio-comedy" or... I dunno. It's also a movie that was pretty well-reviewed, which is one reason I was semi-anxious to see it. Of course, it also has an interesting concept. And some decent stars. The main one is Aubrey Plaza. Another star is Jake Johnson, whom I know from New Girl. Also, Kristen Bell has a small role. And there's Jenica Bergere, someone I vaguely recall quite liking in Ink, and whom I've probably seen in other stuff since then, though I don't remember her at all if I have. So... it was nice to see her again.

Anyway... Plaza plays Darius Britt, an intern at some magazine. And Johnson plays Jeff Schwensen, a writer at the magazine, who pitches a story idea to his boss, about investigating some guy who had submitted a classified ad seeking a partner to go back in time with him, since he'd invented a time machine. (Apparently the ad in the movie was inspired by an ad in real life, which was a joke and became an internet meme, but I'm pretty sure I'd never heard about it until this movie came out.) So, Jeff takes two interns with him to the town where this guy, Kenneth Calloway, lives. Of course Darius is one of the interns, and the other is a guy named Arnau. Jeff makes an attempt to contact Kenneth himself, but Kenneth immediately distrusts him. Which isn't surprising, because Jeff is kind of a jerk. (I'm not saying he exactly acted like a jerk towards Kenneth, but he does have that vibe about him all the time. Though I don't think he's entirely unlikable, maybe because he realizes he's a jerk.) Anyway, after Jeff fails, Darius makes her own attempt to connect with Kenneth, and she has greater success.

While she's getting ever closer to Kenneth, Jeff spends most of his time trying to reconnect with his high school girlfriend, Liz (Bergere). When he first sees her, he decides to give up on reconnecting, because he shallowly thinks she's not as hot as he remembered. But he gives it another try, and actually finds himself unexpectedly falling for her. He also spends part of his time trying to get the virginal Arnau to hook up with some random girl and start enjoying his youth, largely because Jeff seems to regret the loss of his own youth. Personally, I was offended by pretty much everything about Jeff, especially his lack of respect for Arnau's feelings. But that's mitigated somewhat by the fact that he's not just being a jerk, I think he actually wants to help Arnau, and simply can't comprehend anyone feeling differently about such things than he himself does. (It's also mitigated by the fact that Arnau eventually sort of comes around to Jeff's way of thinking, I guess, which made me like Arnau a lot less. And it detracted from my ability to appreciate the film itself.) But all of that is just filler, basically. It's not important at all to the main plot of the movie.

So, Kenneth is kind of weird but sweet and harmless, in a way best described by Bell's character (though saying anything specific about that character would be too spoilery). And Darius is rather antisocial, herself, so it kind of makes sense that she and Kenneth click (though she still seems more normal than him). The growing relationship between the two of them is what makes the movie work, but I don't want to say anything specific about that. Also, there's the ever-present question of whether or not he's actually created a machine that will really travel in time. In the end, that question isn't answered to my satisfaction, though he's obviously created a machine that does something beyond the realm of normal events. I just don't know what. Which I guess is fine, because the movie isn't actually about time travel. The answer to the question which underlies the entire plot... doesn't matter. It's beside the point. Even so, I find it really frustrating not having an answer.

And I don't know what else to tell you. I didn't like the movie as much as I wanted to, nor as much as many critics did. Aside from the annoying secondary plot, it was a good movie, with good acting. And I'm really glad to have seen it.

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