Everyone has to start small before they can make it big: writers, actors, musicians, even directors. Colin Trevorrow, for instance, delivered one of the biggest blockbuster hits to come out of 2015, “Jurassic World”, which was a hugely successful film, although it was also the subject of much criticism since it was a sequel to Spielberg’s “Jurassic Park” 20 years earlier, and because the past 2 sequels had tanked horribly. Before “Jurassic World,” Colin Trevorrow had NOTHING under his resume, except for one little movie called “Safety Not Guaranteed”, a sort of indie, comedy, sci-fi, coming of age film that most people overlooked, much less knew even existed. So now that we see how he can play in the big summer blockbuster movie league, let’s see how he tackled his first crack at filmmaking.
Darius (Aubrey Plaza) is a young intern at a magazine doing an article on a man (Mark Duplass) who put out a personal message in a newspaper’s classified ad section seeking a companion to travel back in time with him using his home-made time machine. As the ad read:
“Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
Senior writer Jeff (Jake Johnson), fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni), and Darius then visit the small seaside town of Ocean View to investigate the so-called time traveler. Once there, Jeff ends up chasing an old girlfriend, Arnau awkwardly chases after girls, while Darius tries to find out if this “time traveler” is crazy or simply someone whose lonely and seeking understanding, just like her. Despite the fact this movie is about a guy wanting to travel in time, its focus primarily deals with the realistic problems and pitfalls of life and relationships, rather than the fantastical wonder of time traveling.
This is a hard look at a person’s life; specifically three lonely people who want any kind of connection or meaningful interaction, even if that means seeking out a potential lunatic who claims to have made his own time machine. Fortunately, the movie not only has interesting dialogue, but also characters who exhibit degrees of depth and humor that gives the story an extra layer of realism that sits nicely with its fantasy element. It’s funny, direct, and painfully powerful at times, while the movie constantly keeps you guessing whether the time machine is real, or just a delusion of a lonely, deeply troubled man; the exploration into the traveler’s psyche is well done and completely realistic.
The actors deliver fine performances, and after Jeff, Arnau, and Darius get to the town and start “researching” the time traveller, the romantic relationships which ensue works surprisingly well, with the various strands not unfolding in quite the way that you might have expected from typical romantic comedies.
Having sung the movie’s praises, this inexpensive little indie movie definitely feels like a stepping stone picture for Colin Trevorrow; an acknowledgement that he wasn’t quite ripe yet, but had enough good foundations to build on for future films.
I give “Safety not Guaranteed” 2 stars out of 4.