Safety Not Guaranteed

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

IMDB classifies this shoestring oddball in the "Comedy | Romance | Sci-Fi" genres; they don't make it easy to search on such things, but I'd guess that's an unusual combination. It did negligible box-office business this past summer, but it's the kind of quirky movie that can do well on DVD.

The main character is a young woman named "Darius", played by Aubrey Plaza. (Yes, that's a person, not a mall. I bet she gets that a lot.) She's on a career track to nowhere, working as a lowly disrespected intern at a local magazine in Seattle.

She gets invited to editorial meetings, however, where the hard-driving editor harangues her staff to come up with story ideas. A writer, Jeff, notes a recent classified ad:

Wanted: Somebody 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.

Jeff proposes to track down the person behind the ad for a human interest story; he, Darius, and an Indian intern named Arnau head on out to dinky Ocean View, Washington to stake out the ad's PO Box. Instead of a mad scientist, they discover Kenneth, an eccentric grocery store employee. He's secretive, flaky, and paranoid, but he and Darius kind of hit it off; she agrees to accompany him on his chronological mission. Part of her wants to get the magazine story, but Kenneth also appeals to her yearning for a time before her life went off the tracks.

Meanwhile, it appears Jeff has an ulterior motive for wanting to go to Ocean View: to reconnect with an old flame, fondly remembered from 20 years ago. I believe this is a metaphor of some sort. (If I suspect a metaphor, I'm almost always right. Because a metaphor has to be really obvious to get me to notice it at all. I'm relatively clueless about metaphors.)

It's a perfectly sweet little movie, full of off-the-wall dialog that had me chuckling all the way through. Aubrey Plaza is appealing as Darius. Mary Lynn Rajskub has a small role as Bridget, the magazine's boss. Unfortunately, nobody yells "Dammit, Bridget, there's no time!" at her.

I discovered via this movie that there is a "Des Moines" in Washington; it's on a highway sign they pass by on the way to Ocean View. I thought that was an Iowa thing only.