Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic, editor of Movie City News and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Check a few signs on Twitter (@chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram (instagram.com/raypride). Twitter: @RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
A writer and two interns from Seattle Magazine drive out to Ocean View on the coast to check out this ad: “WANTED: Someone 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.” Derek Connolly’s clever-enough screenplay invents the young man who writes that ad and then shows what happens after the trio stakes out his post-office box. The romance and sci-fi are decidedly lower-key comic in the diverting “Safety Not Guaranteed.” Aubrey Plaza (“Damsels in Distress,” “Parks & Recreation”) plays Darius, a bug-eyed depressive with dry wit. She lives with her dad, who is concerned about her lifelong nonexistent social life. He knows from her former college roommate that she is still a virgin. This intern stocks the toilet paper in the magazine’s bathrooms. Her new errand is to befriend the ad’s odd author Kenneth (Mark Duplass, “People Like Us,” “The Puffy Chair”). He’s a Grocery Outlet clerk who goes over his co-worker’s head expounding on Schrödinger’s cat. The storyline is his training and testing of Darius as a time-travel companion. On the side, the other intern may get laid and the magazine writer may hook up with his high-school flame. Director Colin Trevorrow, a former SNL intern with Connolly, treats the self-fulfillment issues with indie-friendly irony. Any ambiguity about Kenneth’s paranoia about government agents, delusions as a DIY quantum mechanic, or faulty memory of a lost love goes away in a flash and a whoosh. With Jake Johnson, Karan Soni, Jenica Bergere, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Kristen Bell. 90m. (Bill Stamets)
“Safety Not Guaranteed” opens Friday.