Welcome to a new era of urban legend. The internet has provided us a near inexhaustible source of strange old stories to draw inspiration from.
In 1997, in an issue of Backwoods Home Magazine the following ad ran in the classifieds:
"Wanted: Somebody to go back in time with me. This is not a joke. P.O. Box 322, Oakview, CA 93022 You'll get paid after we get back. Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed. I have only done this once before."
How funny. How Strange. What if we made a movie about the writer of this ad? What if the writer of this ad were serious?
Darius (Aubrey Plaza from Parks and Recreation) is a young woman interning at a magazine. In true indie film fashion, she's adorable, a tad awkward, and more than a little directionless. She's searching for something, but she doesn't yet know what it is she's looking for.
While pitching stories for the magazine, her boss Jeff (Jake M. Johnson from 'The New Girl') suggests a follow up to a recent classified ad asking for a time travel companion. Jeff drafts Darius and nerdy intern Arnau (Karan Soni) for a trip to investigate the classified ad's writer.
After staking out the P.O. Box listed, we're introduced to Kenneth (Mark Duplass). Ken is socially awkward, a tad adorable, a bit directionless, and is intensely looking for something, namely a companion to join him on his time travel adventures.
Everything about this film is charming.
There's a fun offbeat sensibility permeating the tone of this film. Plaza does a fantastic job of establishing Darius as a savvy, intelligent young woman though she doesn't seem to fit in her surroundings.
The film is never cuter than when Darius and Ken are on screen together. Even in IndieFilmLand, characters like these can often become caricatures, but SNG maintains a earnestness which keeps this premise grounded.
We're not asked to struggle with philosophical or temporal quandaries, instead we're along for a sweet character study, and for a "fish-es out of water" story it's surprisingly fresh. Derek Connolly has delivered an efficient screenplay which doesn't belabor its premise and bases its comedy in an accesable genuine-ness.
Director Colin Trevorrow laregely succeeds in harnessing this charming energy. One could get the sense that we're paying homage to Wes Anderson or Hal Ashby, and we get to loosely examine the human condition through very unique eyes.
Of course, we also have to mention the influence of the Duplass Brothers, Mark starring as Ken, and both Mark and Jay credited as Executive Producers. I've enjoyed this duo's work since stumbling on the flick 'Baghead', and they don't disappoint here either. Though it should be said this film is far more mumblecore than science fiction.
Those looking for a time travel film might be a touch disappointed, but aside from upsetting the science fiction aficionados, I think most audiences will be in for a treat. A damn charming treat.
Now if you'll excuse me.
I need to finish writing my romantic comedy screenplay about a quirky yet gorgeous young woman investigating the strange phenomenon of the Toynbee Tiles...