Safety Not Guaranteed

This low-budget drama with a sci fi twist is by turns entertaining and enervating. A Seattle magazine writer heads out to the coast to investigate an oddball – played by 2012's ubiquitous indie actor/filmmaker Mark Duplass – who has placed a newspaper ad asking for a partner to go time traveling with. (This part was inspired by an allegedly true story.) The writer brings along two interns, one of whom (Aubrey Plaza) finds herself particularly attracted to this character's story, and eventually to the character himself.

What follows is a film that adheres to common indie tropes – acoustic emo soundtrack, scruffy hipster types, self-conscious witty banter – and lines up implausibility after implausibility. And I'm not even talking about the question of whether Duplass's character, who seems like a classic paranoid schizophrenic from the get-go, has actually built a time machine. It's just that these characters do things, and react to situations, in entirely unrealistic ways. If first-time feature screenwriter Derek Connolly had let a more seasoned writer take a pass at his script, these issues could have easily been taken care of, and both story and characters would have felt more honestly conceived.

Nevertheless, without giving anything away, the film's conclusion is so suddenly and utterly satisfying that I'll ultimately give Safety Not Guaranteed my softest of recommendations. But be warned: getting to that conclusion means you'll have to sit through, among other things, Duplass singing Plaza a drab indie ballad while strumming a zither.