Movie Review: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
An asteroid will be striking earth virtually destroying life as we know it. SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD follows Steve Carell as Dodge, a lonely, hapless insurance salesman doing exactly what the title says. After his wife flees him when the announcement is made certain, Dodge takes off on a road trip in search for his high school sweetheart. Picking up flaky but sweet, record clinging Penny (Keira Knightley) and an adorable abandoned dog, Sorry, named after the note he was left with, the three face a variety of oddball characters and situations all preparing for the end in their own ways.
What a great premise! The idea of simplifying the end of the world into a sweet but dark comedy about finding love rather than big explosions and destruction is a refreshing breath of air in an overstuffed genre. However, the comedy isn’t as prevalent as much as the trailers would have you believe and the strange sadness overrides throughout. Creating a sad movie isn’t a bad thing, but the delivery of SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD comes off uneven and bland at times. Frequently, I wasn’t sure if I was suppose to be laughing and the weirdness of it all was tough to shake, preventing me from fully appreciating the dramatic or comedic aspect.
Both actors do a terrific job. I’m continually impressed with Steve Carell, who has captured the every man quality effortlessly. Carell is likable and believable as sort of a depressed nobody that is completely relatable for every person. Funny without being over the top, vulnerable without being weak and genuinely kind, Carell has played similar roles before (like last years endearing CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE). In fact, he might actually be that person, but I don’t care as Carell does it better than anyone. Keira Knightly on the other hand, has been hit or miss. I liked her when she first came onto the scene with BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, but was unimpressed with her big budget turns in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films. With a whimsical charm, Knightly delivers an infectious personality without relying on her out of this world good looks. On paper, Carell and Knightly might seem like an odd match, but they make every bit of it work with striking chemistry. Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey, William Petersen, Derek Luke, Martin Sheen, among others show up for some very short cameos that in some cases require maybe one line of dialogue, but this film belongs to Carell and Knightly.
The absurd humor is subtly delightful at the forefront with Dodge still going to work, exercising and watching TV, when clearly everyone has gone to live out what dreams they can in their last few weeks. But the jokes quickly turn inconsistent as the film becomes just as unsure as its lead character. For instance, there is a great scene where the two find a diner that’s still open. The employees here realize that they are each other’s true family and therefore are sticking it out together, still serving food with a friendly drug induced smile on their face and complimentary orgies for dessert. Completely off-the-wall, the humor was not lost on me. However, just before that scene the two witness a kind man murdered right before their eyes. I can understand the extreme differences one may see during an apocalyptic time but tonally, SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD doesn’t always mesh. This is writer Lorene Scafaria’s (NICK AND NORAH’S INFINITE PLAYLIST) first turn at directing and while much of it came off flat, she does manage to grab a nice final moment that admittedly won me over.
Some of the moments in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD are genuinely sweet and subtly humorous. Unfortunately, these moments don’t work as well when spliced together for the completed picture. Deep down there is a great film hidden in the mess, but for now we’ll have to settle for the decent moments.