amongst the lonely and the weird… Safety Not Guaranteed
There are no joyful or even particularly happy people in Safety Not Guaranteed: It’s a comedy, nominally, but it’s a comedy of minor tragedies, of the everyday strife and infinitely recurrent miseries which comprise and confuse a lifetime. The humour then, sympathetically spiteless, comes from the absurd and heart-breaking ways in which the characters are attempting to disguise or circumvent their own loneliness. It’s a comedy of coping mechanisms, perhaps, where the ostensible butt of the joke (Mark Duplass’ Kenneth) whom Jeff (Jake Johnson), Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Arnau (Karan Soni) set out to exploit is on the same continuum of fantasy they are all already sharing.
Given that it is with such a maudlin disposition that the film strikes out it’s no surprise that expressions of discontent abound, with Darius’s default scowl of irritated disinterest being matched by Jeff’s pinched smirk of jealousy towards anyone else’s happiness. Kenneth, whose classified advert seeking out a companion for a mission involving time travel contains the film’s title, is similarly detached; though his distance comes from the fears and paranoia his belief in his research engenders. The characters are left sniping, snide and aloof, with sincerity only slowly awakening in each of their significant relationships in spite of often-determined resistance.
Safety Not Guaranteed is anti-irony, earnest without recourse to schmaltz and sweet without becoming saccharine with its laughs coming on the back of neatly observed minutiae of human behaviours and its sadness born of the same attention to detail. There are shades of I’m a Cyborg, But That’s OK in its portrayal of a more fantastic understanding of the world as destructive in solipsism but uplifting when experienced in concert with another although it’s a braver film than that, with a willingness to both engage with its most-outlandish premise head-on whilst leaving other threads of the plot as frayed as they were when we first found them.