Look, full disclosure here, I have a problem. I struggle to differentiate TV characters and the real life human beings playing them. I would go to therapy over it, but I don’t even think that qualifies as a first world problem. So for now, I’ll continue to suffer alone.
But that very problem sent me into a screening of Safety Not Guaranteed assuming that I’d see Aubrey Plaza basically playing her character April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation for two hours. A dry, emotionless woman who ignores anyone and anything she doesn’t care about.
I’m so happy her performance as Darius, a Settle Magazine intern sent out on a ridiculous mission, proved me wrong. Unlike her performance as April on Parks and Rec, Aubrey pulled off a much more nuanced performance of a quiet young woman looking to find her place in the world.
It’s a coming of age story that involves going back in time. If that sentence didn’t just break your watch, then keep reading.
The story tells the tale of an incredibly socially awkward man named Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who desires to travel back in time for unknown reasons. Darius gets assigned to figure out why he wants to go back in time and how he plans to do it. Along the way the two make a genuine connection based on false backgrounds in the same style as Drew Barrymore and Michael Vartan in the popular ’90s docudrama Never Been Kissed.
Jake Johnson from New Girl stars as her horny boss Jeff and Karan Soni stars as fellow intern Arnau. While they both play their roles well, Aubrey stands out as the star in this movie.
Her performance as the emotionally damaged, but hopeful Darius made me not only feel for her as a character, but also root for her as an actress. She’s incredibly talented, but in an understated way that makes her so much more watchable than the average leading lady. After the movie premiered at Sundance this winter, she told Vulture that this movie gave her an opportunity to show her depth as an actress.
I was so excited about the script; I thought it was great. I was looking for a role that would sort of allow me to branch out of this sarcastic, deadpan zone that I’ve sort of been in, mostly because of the TV show that I’m on, which is something I really like doing, but I was hoping to have something a little deeper going on and felt like this was the perfect opportunity. I wanted to show people that I’m capable of doing more, but it’s hard because people don’t take risks a lot of times. They see you do one thing, and they just want to see it over and over again. And Collin really trusted me to kind of create that transformation. So, yeah. That was my hope.
Her understated acting ability combined with her nonchalant off-screen persona makes me feel like she has major potential to become a Hollywood leading lady. Unlike Kristen Stewart, who purposefully tries to come off as angry and resentful toward the media, Aubrey comes off like she really doesn’t care. It’s not an act. She’s not angry. But she’s not going to go out her way to please anyone. After all, this is the woman who famously turned down Ryan Gosling twice.
She reminds us that you don’t have to be bubbly and cute to be a leading lady. Nor do you have to be a tortured hero struggling to overcome your past. You can play a normal character, while looking like a normal character and still end up succeeding in the end. She starring in three upcoming movies — A Glimpse Inside the Mind of Charles Swan III, The To Do List, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman – that will hopefully give her the chance to prove herself as America’s not-so-sweet sweetheart.
Safety Not Guaranteed comes out this weekend and I highly recommend you go see it. Not only does Aubrey shine, but the film itself is somewhat magical. And I never say that about movies. Ever.