So I got drunk and watched the 2012 American comedy film: Safety Not Guaranteed. I’ll say it now, i cried. Which was weird because i had seen this film before and wasn’t nearly as moved. Why was this? Probably because my former girlfriend left me with a bottle of scotch while she fell asleep on the couch; probably
because this is one of the most insightful commentaries on the profound complexities of modern relationships. The story takes us on the journey of three individuals investigating a newspaper add to time travel. Through this narrative makes each individual confront and question their assumptions of love.
The story begins with a journalist and his interns writing a superficial article investigating a wanted add to time travel. Darius Britt (Aubrey Plaza) is an antisocial pseudo intellectual whom interns at a major Seattle Magazine. Darius’s disposition is uniquely bland. Her apathetic orientations to most things outside of journalism is representative of her as already exterior to main stream acceptability. Her love for journalism, or finding a greater understanding about the world, seems to be the driving force in her life. Through her internship she is assigned to work under Jeff Schwensen (Jake Johnson) middle aged stylish bachelor. Jeff is ambitious, driven by his career and also his sex life. However, Jeff is aging and he knows it. This trip represents an opportunity for him to reinvigorate a past love. Darius is accompanied by Arnau; a fellow intern just using his position as a resume booster. Arnau is a happy medium between these two opposites. Darius is a romantic pessimist whereas Jeff is an optimist. Arnau has little to know experience with love at all, so this whole plot becomes a right of passage in his life.
This is the article from where the movie is named. An unknown individual is seeking a companion to travel through space and time. Symbolic both in the impossibility of time travel but also there is something to be said about the limits of what we could believe is possible. Attempting to travel through space and time is a leap of faith. Poetic. This hipster love story in disguise at first seems to be satirical and comedic in nature, however i felt it was much deeper. Maybe its the own experiences i have had with personal relationships, maybe its my own pessimism about the modern world; the idea of time travel enamored me. If you could escape all of your surroundings completely– open the possibility of creating a new life for your self, for your future. The operation of a journalist is to negotiate the truths in the modern world. The validity of that truth is flexible and journalism is an evolving process. I think its interesting the writers positioned the protagonist as an intern striving to speak truth into the world, and this interns opportunity to produce truth is dependent upon the implausibility of someone creating time travel. Darius natural pessimism yet her self-reliance that there some greater obtainable truth in the world inspires odd thoughts in my head. Without getting into weird existential questions about the writing lets talk more about the movie. As i kept drinking the meta level meaning of the movie was inscribed upon my brain.
After receiving the assignment the crew heads out to find this mysterious time traveler. Staking out the P.O box leads them to find local grocery man Kenneth Callaway (Mark Duplass). Jeff fails to convince Kenneth to reveal any information. Kenneth has a naturally standoffish demeanor. Odd, estranged, like an autistic genius who’s been cast aside, Kenneth operates in darkness. Having few people in his life and fewer friends, he appears to be an estranged hermit hell-bent on noble ideas. He’s a dreamer, an optimist, a romantic. Darius seems to have some type of hipster magic she works on Kenneth. She is able to playfully fool Kenneth into thinking she is the partner he’d been looking for. Shortly after the first encounter with Kenneth Darius begins to invest herself into the story or at lest the idea of it. A moment of tension revolves around each of their reasons for going back into the passed; what they were going to change and what consequences would come. After multiple excursions Kenneth reveals that he wishes to go back to save the life of a loved lost girlfriend. The profound authenticity of Kenneths desire to reclaim the love of his life touches viewers and Darius. She genuinely wishes to help Kenneth. All of the social implications fall away when they are together out in the woods. The seclusion leads to a status of vulnerability. This intimacy is something that has evacuated modern relationships. Continually the complexity of social standards, expectations and procedure have made it exponentially more difficult to produce moments of human authenticity. This moment is something i look for in myself, i think its something we all look for.
Stepping away from Darius and Kenneth, the sub plot involving Jeff and Arnau has rapidly evolved. Jeff’s main prerogative of the journalistic venture was to seek the companionship of his high school girlfriend. He was excited, pride full and arrogant when approaching the exchange. He would refer to her as fat and wondered if she would act as he remembered. Upon there reintroduction Jeff realizes he has a unique appreciation for domestic life. Soon after they reconnect Jeff ends up in the sack with is estranged lover; finding himself swept away in what live he could have had. Jeff is disenchanted with this much prized life style, what if, he things.. What if. We’ve all felt that way at one point in our life or another– what if we could have made it work. What if we could have done something different and secured the love of our lives. However, life isn’t that easy and this story is no fairy tail for Jeff. In the honeymoon period following their renewed sexual relationship, Jeff spontaneously ask her to leave everything and move in with him. This is a sporadic, unexpected and youthful proposition falls upon deaf ears. His old girlfriend politely rejects Jeff; who wouldn’t? Her reasoning is probably the same as all of ours would be; she’s got too much invested in the life she’s created for herself. She couldn’t just be whisked away to an entirely new reality. She was bound to the material and social location she had been in for years. She was bound to the time and place she and Jeff could not escape.
As jeff is confronted with the existential notions of love and modern lively hood Darius and Kenneth are grabbing life by the throat before it grabs them. The couple has taken extreme steps in the construction of the time machine. Kenneth has created a plot to break in and steal lasers that are required for the time machines function. This is the point that Darius begins to fallout out of the delusional venture of time travel. What the fuck am i doing must have echoed thru her head a thousand times. They were breaking the law, they were endangering themselves and they were making steps the couldn’t backtrack upon. Its at this point she starts to question herself, this adventure and more importantly Kenneth. If you recall earlier the whole point of this was to find love in his lost girlfriend. So Darius begins to vet her. After only a little searching Darius finds out Kenneth’s long lost love is alive and well. She goes strait to interview her. Belinda (Kristen Bell ) is well aware of who Kenneth is and his weirdness; she recants the tale of Kenneth which is far different that what we’ve heard. They had never dated, never even talked outside of work. Kenneth was weird but not her type. Kenneth finally grows the balls to ask her out and she flat rejects him; then in a rage Kenneth drives his car through her boyfriends window. He makes a fool of himself and is ashamed to show his face to her ever again.
To the common person, Kenneth’s actions seem crazy, estranged and criminal. To me, they seem like the process of a hopeless romantic lost in modern society. Rejection is something we all face in one form of another, however the ways we deal with it speak more about us as a person than anything else. Kenneth’s inability to digest rejection speaks to the affection that he feels for this women. The world is unforgiving, people are unforgiving, love is unforgiving. Given he wont give up his quest for love, what is he supposed to do? Just like Jeff’s old girlfriend, he cannot just leave and be transported to a time and place where he is love. Just like i cant be transported to a time and place where i’m loved… Or can he, can we all?
To those invested in the plot of the movie: Time travel is very important for this next part. Darius is distraught, disappointed and discontent. She had found love in a hopeless place, she had found Kenneth. Now, all of her conceptions of his authentic nature were shattered. Maybe he was just some estranged, semi-autistic man working crazily to travel through space and time. Maybe. She meets up with Kenneth and exposes the truth; his girlfriend was a lie. He acts as if this is completely new and things that something had worked. This is where time travel is key, if kenneth had been telling the truth, it means that the time travel had worked and he had altered the past in a way that kept his love interest alive and now instead he had different motives. What could these motives be. After she exposes that he was lying, Jeff and Arnau reveal themselves. Kenneth becomes shocked and paranoid running away. Darius is the only one able to keep up with Kenneth. As they make their way throughout the woods, the launch cite becomes apparent. There it sits, a real machine. It’s shinny and sophisticated. Kenneth rushes the machine as Darius stares in wonderment. He begins to power on the devices and gyroscopes begin to move. Darius runs to him, and begins to confess, she was real; what she felt was real. He looks at her and says the most influential line in the movie, “The objective has changed, I’m going back for you”. She boards the ship, Jeff and Arnau look on as the events unfold. The machine powers up, Darius grasp Kenneth, Jeff raises a fist in solidarity. Just like that.. They’re gone.They’ve gone to a place where they can be free, and they can change the past and present.
Safety isn’t guaranteed, in life, in love, or in time travel. We all have to risk something to achieve the unachievable, to travel time and space to create a new world with someone. This story is so moving to me because i relate to it… although i ended the film crying into my 5th glass of scotch, i think it states something profound towards the potentiality of modern love. Kenneth was able to escape the confined label of weird-o grocery clear and Darius was able to reclaim her own optimism within the world. They were able to transcend the time and space to find love that Jeff’s old girlfriend couldn’t. They were able to leave this world, together, to find love; in each other. I wish i had a time machine so i could go back and right all the wrongs that i have made in the world. Treat people better, make people happier, make my self happier. However, thats just not true. The modern world is filled with so many hurdles and complications that its a nearly impossible feat to create an authentic dynamic of unconditional love. You’d need something as realistic of a time machine– in the end, i find myself wanting what they have. The willingness to commit to each other fully, with no guarantees of it succeeding; literally facing the entire world side by side. We don’t know if they end up safe in the past; however i have faith they made it. I have faith, that Kenneth was telling the truth about his old love interest and had gone back to change history to be with Darius. I have faith in love.