Safety Not Guaranteed

Our primary entertainment these days is streaming movies and TV shows, so we are always on the lookout for something we will enjoy watching. A few weeks ago my husband Kurt suggested we rewatch one of our favorite movies, Safety Not Guaranteed, a 2012 independent film starring the infinitely talented Mark DuPlass–who also produced the film through the production company he started with his brother Jay, Big Beach DuPlass Brothers Productions.

The cast of Safety Not Guaranteed: Jack Johnson, Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza, and Karan Soni, 2012. The film was screened at both the Sundance Film Festival, Park City, Utah, and South By Southwest, Austin, Texas.

We decided the title of this movie should be the headline for the lives we now lead–starting with Spring 2020 and going forward–as we navigate the global coronavirus pandemic.

Sidebar: Some countries have highly organized plans that have worked to keep their people safe, alive, and solvent.

Interesting fun fact: The countries with the best coronavirus responses just happen to have one thing in common: they are led by women. Forbes magazine published an article explaining that the women-led countries of Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, and Taiwan have had the best outbreak responses. Meaning, they have been highly successfully at not only to keeping their people alive and healthy, but also with protecting their citizens’ livelihoods during the quarantine and after.

A sign of the times.

Sad, non-fun fact: We are not one of those countries. Our once lofty nation–formerly the world’s remaining superpower–has the distinction of being the country with the most people who have contracted the virus (1.77 million or so reported at present) and the most people who have died from it: which as of Friday, according to the CDC, was over 100,000. Also, we have around 20 percent of our people are either unemployed or underemployed. We have no national plan, just non-leadership coming from our federal government with seat-of-the-pants, ad hoc regulations, tweets from our non-planner-in-chief, and daily changes according to which way the wind happens to blow.

Some of the states (such as California, Oregon, and Washington; seven Northeastern seaboard states from Delaware to Massachusetts; and seven mostly Midwestern states including Kentucky, Minnesota, and Ohio) have banded together to come up with regional responses that makes sense. However, people in the majority of states (including our own state of Tennessee) dwell in a limbo land of state, county, and city directives that are often conflicting and inadequate. And we do not have enough testing, tracing, and isolation procedures leading us to the primrose path of a vaccine-for-all, which is perhaps 18 months to three years from now, according to: (1) whether we get lucky in enough labs throughout the world to find vaccines that work and are safe, (2) the virus doesn’t mutate too much, (3) we can produce tons and tons of the vaccine around the world, (4) we can distribute the vaccine to hundreds of millions of people in this country with the attendant vials and shots, and so on, and (5) we can get most people to take the vaccine. Yes, we have a pretty good number of anti-vaxers out there who are against all vaccines on principle. Phew! It makes my head hurt thinking of the obstacles we face.

Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Kenneth (Mark DuPlass) in “Safety Not Guaranteed”. Photo credit: The New York Times.

Sooooo Safety Not Guaranteed could indeed be the title for our lives now. And the movie is perfect for our times as well. It is a love story, a romantic comedy, and a sci-fi adventure rolled into one–which is certainly how my life seems to be currently unfolding.

The movie’s plot: Mark DuPlass plays Kenneth Calloway, a man who purports to have built a time machine, and who places an ad in a local paper for someone to time travel with him. Because who would want to go alone, right? His ad reads:

Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 91 Ocean View, WA 99393. You’ll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. I have only done this once before. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.

Safety Not Guaranteed, written by Derek Connolly

Hard-bitten, narcissistic magazine writer Jeff (played by actor Jack Johnson) notices the ad and receives permission from his editor to surreptiously research a story on Kenneth–and he will have one of his interns write it for him, of course. One of the two interns assigned to the project, Darius Britt (played by Aubrey Plaza), befriends Kenneth and offers her services to travel through time with him. She is snarky, intelligent, thinks well on her feet, and has an immediate connection with our leading man.

The Safety Not Guaranteed movie poster, 2012.

The time travel basic training that Kenneth puts Darius through is worth the price of streaming alone (the movie can be streamed on Vudu, Amazon Prime, YouTube, iTunes, and Google Play). The acting, writing, and directing are all first-rate, and hey, folks, (spoiler alert) there is a happy ending.

But for me the takeaway from the film is that we must provide our own structure for a world that no longer makes much sense. In such a topsy-turvy world, you are best served by staying out of the way of as many uninformed bystanders as possible since many of them do not have any idea what is really going on. And you are infinitely fortunate if you can find a fellow traveler who believes in you and wants to be your partner through this time-travel adventure called life.

The closed JCPenney entrance at our local mall on March 21, 2020. JCPenney, a 118-year-old company, filed for bankruptcy on May 15, 2020, and is closing hundreds of its stores around the country.

The movie also reminds us that we do not always have all the information about other people, that it is easy enough to brand someone a loser or a lunatic who may be a guy who has actually created a time travel machine in his garage (metaphorically speaking, that is), and, not only can people surprise us with their ingenuity and humanity, but we can often surprise ourselves as well.

So I leave you with some words to live by in this ever-changing world in which we find ourselves:

Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, if he gets angry, he’ll be a mile away–and barefoot.

Sarah Jackson ~ first recorded in the Lincoln Star (Nebraska) in 1930

Also: stop, drop, and roll, if you suddenly find that your clothes are on fire. You’re welcome.

~ Anna – 5/31/2020

About aamontgomery

Seeing new possibilities in everyday things
This entry was posted in Autobiographical, Courage, Creativity, Ideas, Knoxville, Op/Ed Thoughts, Screen and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Safety Not Guaranteed

  1. So timely and true! The advice that we need to follow in these uncertain times.

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