A writer and two interns from Seattle Magazine drive out to Ocean View on the coast to check out this ad: “WANTED: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. Safety not guaranteed.” Derek Connolly’s clever-enough screenplay invents the young man who writes that ad and then shows what happens after the trio stakes out his post-office box. The romance and sci-fi are decidedly lower-key comic in the diverting “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Aubrey Plaza (“Damsels in Distress,” “Parks & Recreation”) plays Darius, a bug-eyed depressive with dry wit. She lives with her dad, who is concerned about her lifelong nonexistent social life. He knows from her former college roommate that she is still a virgin. This intern stocks the toilet paper in the magazine’s bathrooms. Her new errand is to befriend the ad’s odd author Kenneth (Mark Duplass, “People Like Us,” “The Puffy Chair”). He’s a Grocery Outlet clerk who goes over his co-worker’s head expounding on Schrödinger’s cat. The storyline is his training and testing of Darius as a time-travel companion. On the side, the other intern may get laid and the magazine writer may hook up with his high-school flame. Director Colin Trevorrow, a former SNL intern with Connolly, treats the self-fulfillment issues with indie-friendly irony. Any ambiguity about Kenneth’s paranoia about government agents, delusions as a DIY quantum mechanic, or faulty memory of a lost love goes away in a flash and a whoosh. With Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kristen Bell. 90m. (Bill Stamets)
“Safety Not Guaranteed” opens Friday.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His multimedia history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” will be published soon. Previews of the project are on Twitter and on Instagram as Ghost Signs Chicago. More photography on Instagram.