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The Forgotten Aubrey Plaza Sci-Fi Comedy You Need To Watch On Netflix

Since breaking out as the sardonically quirky intern, April Ludgate, on Parks and Recreation, Aubrey Plaza has done her deadpan thing in a lot of different contexts, like a super-villainous stint on Legion and a black comedy one in Ingrid Goes West. One of the earliest uses of Plaza's gifts outside of the confines of Parks and Rec was the deceptively heartfelt 2012 indie sci-fi comedy Safety Not Guaranteed, which was her first lead role in a film.

Safety Not Guaranteed is the low-budget feature directorial debut of Colin Trevorrow, who went on to direct the blockbuster Jurassic World trilogy, coincidentally starring Plaza's Parks and Rec onscreen husband, Chris Pratt. It was written by Derek Connolly, who later worked with Trevorrow again on Jurassic World, and the script that eventually became Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker after Trevorrow was replaced as director by J.J. Abrams. 

Connolly won an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Screenplay for his script, which was based on a joke classified ad that ran in Backwoods Home Magazine in 1997. In the film, the 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."

The film was a Sundance hit and helped raise the profiles of many people involved who have gone on to do bigger things — not just Plaza, Trevorrow, and Connolly, but also co-stars Jake Johnson and Mark Duplass. With all the big stuff those folks have done in the years since, it's easy to overlook Safety Not Guaranteed, but it's available to watch on Netflix for anyone looking for a unique movie.

Safety Not Guaranteed is a sad little indie comedy

Plaza plays Darius Britt, a recent graduate of the University of Washington whose life is small, lonely, and ruled by fear. She lives at home with her widower father (Jeff Garlin) and interns at Seattle Magazine.

One day at work, journalist Jeff Schwensen (Johnson) pitches a story finding and profiling the person behind a classified ad seeking a time-travel companion. The pitch is approved, and Jeff takes Darius and another intern, Arnau (Karan Soni), on a reporting trip that's actually a pretense for Jeff to reconnect with a high school girlfriend. 

Darius eventually finds the guy behind the ad, an eccentric and paranoid supermarket clerk named Kenneth Calloway (Mark Duplass). She gains his trust, keeping the fact that she's a journalist a secret, and eventually develops genuine feelings for him while they train to go back in time. She tells him that she wants to go back in time to prevent the murder of her mother when she was 14, while he reveals that he wants to go back in order to prevent the death of his girlfriend, who was killed when someone crashed a car into her house. Then things start getting twisty, and it's better to not reveal any spoilers past that.

The film received very positive reviews, and has a 91% "Fresh" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. "Plaza and Duplass are enormously watchable, and there's a sweet sadness in the movie's focus on lost dreams and missed chances, and the truism that we all long for a time machine every once in a while," Time Out's Tom Huddleston wrote in his review.

The movie is a clever, offbeat indie flick, and at only 85 minutes, it moves at a brisk pace. It's worth checking out on Netflix if you're in the mood for something different.