“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. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before.”
If you find yourself wondering who might have written this classified ad, or who would answer it, or if it’s too late for you to sign up, you need look no further than this week’s CB Film Series presentation, Safety Not Guaranteed.
This was a real ad that ran in a survivalist magazine, Backwoods Home, in the mid-1990s. After years of bouncing around the internet in a tailspin of punchlines and parodies, it finally landed in the curious laps of Colin Trevorrow and Derek Connolly, whose first feature film imagines unfolding the absurd layers that twist around this humble request.
In the film, Jeff is a writer who stumbles across the ad, and pitches the story to the Seattle magazine where he works. He wants to investigate, to track down who wrote the ad, because, he says, “it could be funny”. He is sent on assignment with interns Darius (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation), a recognizably cynical aimless 20-something, and Arnau, a virginal science major looking to gain experience on all fronts.
As the oddball trio set out on their journey to Ocean View, Washington—and, if we’re lucky, into the past—clichés and expectations begin to unravel. We discover that Jeff is on his own quest to reconnect with a high school girlfriend, and he soon derails Arnau on a mission to get him laid. Darius, meanwhile, tracks down Kenneth, who is really just a guy looking for someone to go back in time with him.
Kenneth works at a grocery store stocking shelves, and devotes his free time to advancing science and breaking into laboratories. Darius tags along, pretending to be an interested respondent. Which, of course, she is, if only she doesn’t know it yet.
Not knowing yet is the real beauty of Safety Not Guaranteed. It is a story about curiosity and expectation, in which disappointment looks more like a carnival detour than the end of the road. Will the unlikely adventurers travel back in time? Will any of these lonely souls find love? Is there any hope for a generation dulled and jaded by pop culture references and internet porn?
There is only one way to find out. Safety Not Guaranteed. Plays this Thursday, 7pm at Empire Theatres Studio 10.
Must bring your own weapons.