Safety Not Guaranteed is a completely successful but highly peculiar little movie the Eagle’s Rod Pocowatchit started by calling “deadpan funny,” and then never mentioned humor again, referring instead to it as an “imaginative, unexpectedly wondrous journey,” “charming and warm,” using words like “heart and conscience” and “electric” and “the tenderness of the human condition.” I refer you to last week’s “GO!” section. Pocowatchit is dead on.
The premise of Safety Not Guaranteed would seem to be good only for sci-fi or comedy: Mark Duplass claims he has a time machine and he wants somebody to go back with him, and Aubrey Plaza, a very unusual actress from TV’s Parks and Recreation, is assigned to play along with him for a news report. The great question, which I do not intend to answer, is: Is Duplass crazy or crooked or deluded or what?
The spine of Safety Not Guaranteed is the relationship between Plaza and Duplass, and you’re never quite sure what Plaza thinks she is falling for, but Duplass does not fit the stereotype of a genius or even a nerd, and his actions and some of his circumstances suggest something serious going on. So much for plot.
Aubrey Plaza is not a standard sex bomb, but she is enormously appealing and knows how to use her big black-rimmed eyes effectively and to continually suggest conflicting emotions and ideas competing in her mind; in fact, none of the characters are physically stereotyped, though the characters and the contrasts between them are clear and basic. And they’re sympathetic, every one. I find that refreshing.
If you must have deep stuff, you might try thinking about the varied relations between the past, the present, and moving into the future, in search of happiness. But I recommend just relaxing and enjoying.