Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Safety Not Guaranteed' review: Love, innovation and other dangers

***1/2 (out of four)

Someone not paying attention to details may dismiss “Safety Not Guaranteed” as a standard indie quirkfest, featuring goofy characters, outrageous situations and the inevitable musical performance on an obscure instrument.

For the right kind of romantic, though, “Safety” offers pure outsider catharsis. Aubrey Plaza lends more layers than ever to her typical moodiness as Darius, whose Seattle Magazine internship brings her, a shy fellow intern (Karan Soni), and an irresponsible reporter (Chicago native Jake M. Johnson of “New Girl”) looking to reconnect with an ex to a seaside Washington town. There, they track down Kenneth (Mark Duplass), who published an ad seeking a partner to join him on a time-travel mission where safety isn’t guaranteed. (Note: Someone really did run an ad like that in a magazine.)

Jeff (Johnson) diagnoses Kenneth as a guy off his hinges but gets no information. Darius, who’s drawn to Kenneth’s offbeat enthusiasm, must become part of the story to get the story, posing as a potential companion without revealing her journalistic intentions to the paranoid Kenneth.

“Can you look fear and danger in the eye?” Kenneth asks. How many people can answer in the affirmative? With a low-key charm that remains entertaining even when landing on the milder side of funny, “Safety Not Guaranteed” builds into a surprisingly affecting essay on a world that mistakenly considers itself enlightened and on people who aren’t as smart as they think. Darius’ mom passed away when she was a kid—a time when she was picked on constantly and, she says, had a mustache until the age of 14. Now, though, others assume her life bounces along without fault simply because she’s pretty. Meanwhile, sex-obsessed Jeff must decide what he really wants from his ex (Jenica Bergere), who may see his opinion as legit or absurd.

Duplass brings sensitivity to a man whose denim jacket, fixation on laser technologies and certainty that he’s being recorded/followed nearly brands him as a joke. We’re supposed to see him like that. “Safety Not Guaranteed” works because perception and selective memory aren’t always what we think or want them to be, and love doesn’t always go the way you expect. This convergence of wounded souls doesn’t rewrite the indie formula, but it’s enough to make you a believer again.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 7:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais

 

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Lollapalooza style portraits

    Lollapalooza style portraits

    Concertgoers pose at the three-day fest in Grant Park.

  • Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    And just like that, there’s only one day left of Lolla. Here’s what stood out to us from day 2. Best: The Tallest Man on Earth: Maybe it was just a right-mood, right-set situation, but boy this was the perfect mid-day act to take a breather, sit in the sun, and just chill and listen to and enjoy....

  • 50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    Shots in The Dark at Parliament Nightclub with 50 Cent and The Underground Nightclub with Wyclef Jean and Joey Fatone July 31st

  • Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    One day down! Here’s the best and worst we saw at Lolla on Friday, plus a few superlatives from day 1. Best: Anyone who knows me knows I was bound to pick Paul McCartney as my favorite act of the day. The Beatle came out and gave it his all with more than two hours of hits, tributes and jokes about...

  • Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    What can you really say about Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, pop music pioneer, worldwide cultural icon, and all-around great guy, that hasn't already been said? I mean, seriously. With the Beatles changing music for the better, becoming a pop culture institution and being "more popular...

  • Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Aldermen looking to stop stores from getting around plastic bag ban

    Chicago's ban on plastic bags starts to take effect at many big stores Saturday, but an alderman who helped craft the law already is talking about changing it in order to thwart a few large retail chains that he says are trying to skirt the new rules.

Comments
Loading
69°