The 2012 film Safety Not Guaranteed is both a mix of many flavors of film and a showcase for three rising actors. The movie stars Aubrey Plaza (Darius), perhaps best known as April on Parks and Recreation, and it features New Girl's Jake Johnson (Jeff) and Mark Duplass (Kenneth Calloway) of many things, including movies made with his brother Jay, in the major supporting roles. It's a science fiction movie that is a mixture of comedy and drama and romance. It involves time travel, but also lets that literal notion run parallel to characters reflecting on their pasts and their presents and their lives. All this, and director Colin Trevorrow and writer Derek Connolly managed to churn out a movie that is less than 90 minutes long.
The action of the movie stems from a classified ad placed in a newspaper, which almost makes this feel like a period piece even though it is not. The ad isn't looking for anything spectacular. Just somebody to partner with the placer of the ad in a trip back in time. Jeff, a crass magazine journalist, offers to track down the person who took out the ad, and he brings two unpaid interns, Darius and a gentleman of Indian descent named Arnau, along with him. However, Jeff has ulterior motives, and has little interest in actually investigating this classified ad other than to make fun of it. Also, he's not the main character. Darius is. So, naturally, when they find the man who placed the ad, Kenneth dismisses Jeff, and it is left to Darius to head up the investigation.
Of course, Darius is a social outcast who doesn't really feel like she fits in with the world, much like Kenneth, and so they start to bond and such, even if what they are bonding over is preparing to travel back in time. This isn't a time-travel movie like Looper or Primer either, which are about time travel and feature lots of time-traveling. This film is more about the characters and their interactions.
This movie was going along swimmingly... until the end. Your mileage is going to vary when it comes to the conclusion of Safety Not Guaranteed. It can't really be discussed without there being spoilers. At a certain point, they probably had to make a choice regarding Kenneth and his intent to time travel. They made that choice, and it was jarring, and perhaps not the best idea. It doesn't really jibe with the film up to that point, although it doesn't take away from it at all either. If you were enjoying the story up to that point, it's not like you will feel cheated. You may just roll your eyes and leave your jaw agape at their decision. Again, that's depending on how you feel about the matters at hand.
However, the ending just left Safety Not Guaranteed as a good movie instead of a really good one. It's plenty funny, even if that isn't its main thrust all the time, and they make the journey of Darius interesting and engaging from the very beginning. Additionally, Plaza is good and proves plenty capable of headlining a film. She's mostly known for her deadpan comedy, but she's clearly able to actually emote and be genuine as well. It's a strong cast all around, and the supporting cast features a few ringers in it. Due to the movie's limited budget, some scenes are a little flimsy, but there are also some particularly strong sequences, including one set piece that really stuck out as being impressive.
While it helps, you don't necessarily need to be interested in sci-fi or time travel to enjoy this movie. If you just want a sort of coming of age comedy drama, Safety Not Guaranteed can fill that need for you quite well.