SXSW Review: SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED

By Laurie Coker

Hands down, Safety Not Guaranteed land easily as my favorite film of SXSW 2012. I simply loved this film from start to finish and adored the characters, wonderfully and tightly crafted by screenwriter Derek Connoly, who looks like he is about 18 years old and seems humble and surprised by his gifts as a writer. Director Colin Trevorrow and Connolly, who I had opportunity to meet (photo attached) along with several members of the cast in interviews, have created an inspired, character driven film, assembled the perfect cast and managed a film with heart and delicious surprises.

After seeing a personal ad – “WANTED: Some to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED. I only have done this once before” – in a paper, a magazine reporter and two interns hear out to find the adi’s author, with a post office box address as the only clue. Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson from televisions ‘New Girl’) chooses two interns, Darius Britt (‘Parks and Rec’s’ Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni), to accompany him on his assignment, only Jeff has a hidden agenda – to meet up with his hot, former high school sweetheart, Bridget Bay (Mary Lynn Rajskub).

After staking out the P,O, Box of the advertiser, they discover Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass of the writing and directing Duplass brothers) a man dead set on traveling back in time to save and end up with the girl of his dreams (played in a cameo appearance by Kristan Bell). Daruis befriends Kenneth and so the two grow close – becoming quite smitten with each other. Meanwhile, Jeff attempting is more earthly trip back in time, meets his former girlfriend (making every effort to rekindle the past) and all the while he works to get the painfully shy Arnau to live for the present.

I loved this story and as noted the characters are rich, multi-dimensional and delightful to watch. Everything play out well. perfectly paced and timed, with not one minute of screen time wasted. The film’s talent cast captures the very essence of Connolly’s characters, and in the interview I learned that they all became close while filming, likening the set to summer camp. It shows! I asked Connolly about the depth and personalities of his characters, and he told me that each has a little bit of himself in him or her. I would have loved, for that every reason, to have had more time to talk to Connolly, because as a writing teacher, I marvel at the insight, profundity and quality of his characterization and his obvious talent for the craft.

While some might categorized the PG-13 rated Safety Not Guaranteed (based on a real ad and a real person, by the way) as a chick flick or a rom-com, it really is a dramady in the truest sense of that made up word. It themes are clear, its characters reflect a piece of each of us and the storyline, which offers a perfect surprise ending, pleases in every way. I am placing an A+ in my grade book. I think it is a MUST see for all who love time-travel, love, friendships, reality checks and so very much more.

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