Darius (Aubrey Plaza) has felt invisible since high school. She’s at an unpaid internship at a Seattle based magazine doing menial tasks such as buying toilet paper for the bathroom (obviously, the magazine isn’t doing well enough to have a janitorial service). A staff meeting is called and the editor calls out for story ideas. Jeff (Jake Johnson) throws out the idea of tracking down a guy who put a classified ad in the newspaper about time travel.
The editor approves the story. Jeff grabs two interns, Darius and Arnau (Karan Soni), and they head off to Ocean View to find this person. They are able to track down Kenneth (Mark Duplass) who works at a supermarket, lives in a run-down house, and drives a beat up car.
Jeff approaches Kenneth first, but is quickly rejected for the time travel partnership. Darius goes in for the second attempt and her snappy dialogue gets her a positive response. Finally feeling like she has something of importance to do, Darius throws herself into the assignment. Kenneth puts Darius through various training exercises: gun shooting, running, how to communicate inan emergency.
A lot of this seems like a waste of time when Kenneth reveals that they’re only going back to 2001. To give us just a bit of added idiosyncrasies to the movie, the journalists soon realize that Kenneth is being followed by federal agents.
The time machine has a larger meaning for our characters. Kenneth wants to go back in time to reunite with his former“girlfriend.” Since Darius is doing much of the research, Jeff goes off to reunite with his high school girlfriend (this probably being why he suggested the story in the first place).
Jeff also takes Arnau under his wings. Jeff wants to make sure that Arnau doesn’t grow old and end up regretting not getting to experience a proper one nightstand with a college co-ed – one can only hope they weren’t scouting out high school freshmen. Darius finds herself pulled into the time machine potential, because of her own regrets. It doesn’t really matter if the time machine works or not. The various characters have issues that they need to resolve and this story helps them work out their past and present.
In some ways this movie reminded me of K-Pax (2001), a man that everyone believes is just a bit off (you can’t build a time machine and you can’t be an alien visitor to planet earth). As the journalists follow leads, they learn that parts of Kenneth’s story do not add up. But this does not matter, because even when their doubts rise they can’t help but hope that there is an explanation for these inconsistencies and that Kenneth really has created a time machine.
The movie runs a brief hour and 25 minutes. I’m not going to say that this movie knocks it out of the park. In fact, if the movie had gone another 10 minutes, I probably would have found myself bored to death; but in those brief 85 minutes we get a low key movie that makes you think about what changes you would make if you could go back to your own personal year of 2001. You will find yourself cheering for Kenneth, Darius, Jeff and Arnau.
P.S. The movie ends with the most amazing facial expression from Jake Johnson and I understood once again why Zooey Deschanel isn’t the only reason why I love “The New Girl.” As for the theater audience, this moment got the biggest laugh.
P.S.S. So I am anal enough to have looked closely at the classified ad. How exactly did they know to stake out post office box 9 (sorry, if it was a different number, I believe it was 9)?