[caption id="attachment_131337" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="FilmDistrict"][/caption]
"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."
So read a personal ad found in the back of a newspaper by then-aspiring screenwriter Derek Connolly, who was looking for inspiration to pen a new work. Using the ad and a lot of imagination, Connolly wrote "Safety Not Guaranteed," a romantic comedy involving time travel, conspiracy theories, the FBI, long-lost loves and a whole lot of laughs.
His work paid off: Connolly won the screenwriting award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for his first produced screenplay. And for good reason. The lineup of films that played in Park City this year was a doozy, with the likes of "The Surrogate," "Beasts of the Southern Wild" and "Simon Killer" all making their world premieres. But none could match the ingenuity and freshness of "Safety Not Guaranteed," a film that came of nowhere to win the hearts of festivalgoers and critics.
Also Check Out: Our 20 Favorite Films from Sundance 2012
In the film, directed by newcomer Colin Trevorrow, "Parks and Recreation" star Aubrey Plaza gets to flex her leading-lady muscles as Darius, a Seattle-based magazine intern who is sent to get a juicy story out of the man behind the quirky ad. Being an intern, Darius is accompanied by Jake (Jake M. Johnson), a senior journalist at the publication, who gives Darius the thankless task of seducing the time-traveling hopeful to nab an exclusive. To Darius' amusement, her target, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), turns out to be a reasonably attractive oddball, one who may very well have the ability to go back in time.
From there on in, Connolly's script keeps the surprises coming and the romance between Darius and Kenneth blossoming. He also keeps remarkably focused on the characters populating his gonzo tale, and not on the "high conceptness" of it all. The "Back to the Future" elements of the story never take away from the delicate love story at the center of "Safety Not Guaranteed," making for a movie that can appeal to sci-fi fans as well as the uninitiated.
Of course, the winning success of the comedy can't all be credited to Connolly. Plaza kills it in her first lead role. She brings her signature brand of deadpan comic delivery, used to such great effect in "Parks and Recreation," to the film, but Plaza surprises by burrowing deep into Darius' vulnerable and troubled nature. You can't help but love and empathize with her -- something you might also say about "Safety Not Guaranteed."