[Review] – Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

1 Jul

Title: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Year: 2012
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, William Petersen, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Corddry
MPAA Rating: R, language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Runtime: 101 min
IMDb Rating: 7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Metacritic: 59

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is one of those films that I honestly didn’t anticipate liking as much as I did. I mean, I thought it was going to be a fun movie, after all I’m a huge fan of both the leads, and the supporting cast is chockfull of people I really like, plus it’s the directorial debut of Lorene Scafaria, who had previously written Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a film I’m a big fan of. And even though I recognize this film is far from perfect, especially in its final act, I thought it was just infinitely charming, and the people involved give really awesome performances that you can’t help but love.

The two leads here are Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, by the way, who quickly become one of the unlikeliest and yet also one of the best couples around which to base this kind of comedy. It’s their performances, and the chemistry they have with each other, that makes this film such a success; they’re just too likable to resist, really. This kind of the comedy, by the way, is one that centers around the impending end of the world.

You have Dodge Petersen, Mr. Carell’s character, in the car with his wife as the radio announced that the last effort to prevent asteroid Matilda’s impact on Earth has failed, and that the world has three weeks left before it ceases to exist. After the news broadcast finishes, Dodge’s wife gets out of the car, running away from him, never to be seen again. Dodge goes to work the next day and we find out how people have been dealing with the news, some are doing orgies, others are doing drugs, some are depressed and want to off themselves, some hiring hit men to kill them off at unexpected times.

Dodge then meets his neighbor, Penny, the character Ms. Knightley plays, who he sees crying because she just left her boyfriend and because she probably won’t be able to get back to England to be with her family. She also gives Dodge a letter she kept forgetting to give him after it mistakenly was placed in her mailbox, it’s from Olivia, his high-school sweetheart, telling Dodge that he was the love of her life. Dodge and Penny make a pact; he knows someone with a plane that could get her to England, but first she’d have to drive him to Olivia. So they embark on a road trip, in which you can bet your ass they’ll stumble upon some weird stuff and, of course, fall for each other. And damn did it all work for me.

The thing that I’m guessing people will find a bit off about this film is that, after its first act in which it’s having a lot of fun showing us what people might start doing if the end of the world was nigh, it starts shifting its tone from comedy to drama, because the world ending is not really funny, and because what both of our lead characters want, to have some kind of final emotional connection, isn’t either. I mean, this behaves as a romantic comedy, but there’s some drama here to, and, most noticeably, there’s never the promise that they’ll all live happily ever after.

To me, however, this all worked because of the performances. Road trip movies are never about what’s at the end of the road, but rather what you learn and who you meet while you’re on it, add this end-of-the-world scenario to that and you’re obviously going to get a movie that’s all about whatever reflection these guys have along the way. That can seem artificial and totally off really easily, because it’s all so obviously structured to do just that, and that’s when it falls on the actors to do their job at the highest of levels, to keep these characters honest and emotionally raw to sell this to us.

Mr. Carell and Ms. Knightley succeed at doing just that. He gives a performance that’s beautifully understated, and his quiet confidence in his acting is what keeps the movie together when it isn’t as sure-footed as its leading man. And as we all saw in Little Miss Sunshine, Mr. Carell can certainly get to the deeply emotional core, sometimes sad core, of his characters even though he’s supposed to be in a comedy, and make it feel awesome. And Ms. Knightley, who has to be one of the three best under-30 actresses working right now, if not the very best, does in a way play a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but she has a higher purpose in this movie, and she uncovers a sweetness that’s just absolutely heart-warming to watch. She’s brilliant here.

I loved this movie. Like I said, the final act is a bit shoddy, because I don’t think it really gave us a great sense of closure, but the rest of the film is just absolutely golden, especially the middle act which I found to be just awesome. There’s something to take out of this film, you know, and when you have Mr. Carell and Ms. Knightley playing these characters you have to thank the movie gods, because with other actors in these roles this film could have turned out quite bad. And yes, a supporting cast that includes Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Adam Brody and Gillian Jacobs does indeed help. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is one of those films that I really recommend you to seek out.

Grade: A-


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