Film Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Reviewed by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion
“It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine)”. How an R.E.M. song containing those lyrics didn’t make it into Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is beyond me but I suppose throwing in P.M. Dawn’s “Set Adrift on Memory Bliss” is a quasi-decent consolation, at least for nostalgia’s sake. Moving away from soundtrack considerations, even if one had avoided trailers, the title of this film pretty much says it all. A big asteroid is headed for Earth and since Harry Stamper is a fictional character played by Bruce Willis, there’s nothing we can do about it.
Steve Carell plays Dodge, a nice guy whose wife has just left him, who doesn’t want to spend his last days having meaningless sex with total strangers, and who is just looking to find a little redemption for a life largely wasted. Keira Knightley is his downstairs neighbor, Penny, a Brit far from home who is ephemeral and quirky and the complete opposite of Dodge. Through circumstance and convenient screenwriting, the pair end up on a road trip together and if you don’t know what happens when two single movie characters go on a road trip together, then I won’t spoil it for you.
While Carell and Knightley are the heart of the story, there’s humor to be found all along the way. The film is populated with great comedic support, such as Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey and T.J. Miller. Although the backdrop for events is the annihilation of life on this planet, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a funny ride; and for the most part, this is exactly that (once you’ve seen the film, you’ll know why the world would be a better place if there really was a restaurant chain named “Friendsy’s”).
Really, the whole affair is entertaining and it’s hard not to root for Penny and Dodge. While Carell is essentially playing the same part he always does (go ahead, find me a difference between his movie characters; not a fun game, is it?), Knightley rebounds from a rocky start to her character feeling far too over-acted and turns it into one of her most endearing efforts yet. They share a good chemistry and the impending global catastrophe helps mitigate their age difference. I suppose it depends if you’re a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person, but there is something comforting about seeing these two make the best of a terrible situation and also a fair number of people they meet along the way taking the time to cherish what they have rather than simply devolve into mindless, rioting machines (that’s here too though).
Of course, being the soulless cynic that I am, there are some “only in a movie” events that converge that probably made sure test audiences didn’t write too many negative things on comment cards and irked me to some degree. I’m all for romance (no really, I am … stop laughing) but there are a few moments that play out a bit too much like wishful thinking than realism. Then again, I’ve been told on more than one occasion to shut up and stop over-thinking movies so take that for what you will.
The bottom line is that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World will give people plenty of laughs and its characters will worm their way into your heart if you let them. I tend to enjoy films about relationships that have a sci-fi backdrop but the cynic in me prefers when they turn out more like Monsters or Another Earth and a little less like mainstream popcorn munching. There’s nothing wrong with the latter, it’s just personal taste. Consume as you prefer.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hits theaters on June 22, 2012 and is rated R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence.