"Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me," read an infamous 2005 classified ad that quickly became an Internet meme. "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." Those 36 words might not seem like enough to adapt as a concept for a feature film, but don't tell that to director Colin Trevorrow, who turned the goofy help-wanted posting into the heartfelt festival sensation, "Safety Not Guaranteed."
Hitting theaters on June 8, the indie dramedy -- which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January, and screened again at South By Southwest in Austin -- focuses on Darius, a young magazine intern (Aubrey Plaza) who tracks down the ad's author, Kenneth (Mark Duplass), and slowly begins to fall in love with his vast, and potentially dangerous, eccentricities. Filled with deadpan humor and genuinely moving pathos, "Safety Not Guaranteed" strikes a balance of emotions that recalls Wes Anderson at his best -- and that's not just because co-star Jake Johnson pays homage to one of Anderson's best creations, "Rushmore's" Herman Blume, in the film.
"My inclination was never to do anything broad," Duplass told Moviefone after the film's SXSW screening this week. "The comedy inherent on the page with the quirky dialogue, with the nature of Kenneth's mullet and the jean jacket. That was all there. My job was to bring the heart and try to find a genuine connection with Darius and build something that was hopefully sweet. Bring that non-cynicism that is the essence of Kenneth into the movie. Try to -- lack of a better word -- infect Darius with it and bring her my way."
Kenneth does, making "Safety Not Guaranteed" the rare indie love story that features a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, one that pushes the female lead out of her comfort zone. That arc gives Plaza the chance to play the many facets of Darius's personality, and not just her patented "Parks and Recreation" perma-scowl.
"At that time I was looking to do a movie where I could kind of exercise different muscles that I don't get to use all the time, and tackle something totally different," Plaza told Moviefone about the role, which screenwriter Derek Connolly wrote with her in mind. "It just seemed like a really organic way to get into that -- to play a character that starts off closed, sad and depressed and a zone I'm very familiar with, and have to break out of it slowly."
Of course, beyond the touching lead performances from Plaza and Duplass -- plus the break-out supporting turn from Johnson -- "Safety Not Guaranteed" is a film that gets by on its increasingly believable "what if?" premise. That being: can Kenneth actually time travel?
"[I]t has this great air of mystery to it," Duplass said. "The fact that someone truly believes they could time travel. That person you would immediately assume is joking or crazy, and then when you meet them and you find out they really do believe. [...] That is one of the big questions of the movie: This guy's [absolutely] crazy, sure. But, maybe he's not?"
For more on "Safety Not Guaranteed," check out Moviefone's chat with co-stars Johnson and Karan Soni. The film hits theaters on June 8.