Seeking a Friend for the End of the World-attachment0

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Movie Information

The Story: With the end of the world coming in a matter of weeks thanks to an asteroid hurtling toward Earth, two neighbors set off into the world to find their loved ones. The Lowdown: A painless rom-com that’s just a bit too dramatically and comically inert, despite short fits of charm.
Score:

Genre: Pre-Apocalyptic Romantic Comedy
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen, Adam Brody, Derek Luke
Rated: R

Enjoyable in small doses, Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has the basic problem of always lacking something. The film attempts to rework and reimagine the romantic comedy by stamping a pre-apocalyptic bent on it, but never knows what exactly its aims are. Is it a quirky comedy? A depressing tract on the eventuality of death? Well, it’s neither, and by never picking a tone, Seeking a Friend isn’t much of anything.

The film starts off strong enough, as we learn the news that in three weeks, an asteroid will strike Earth — essentially ending civilization. We meet Dodge (Steve Carell), whose wife (Carell’s real life wife Nancy Carell)—in the most literal sense of the phrase—runs out on him after hearing the news. In the meantime, Dodge’s job in life insurance has become pointless and all of his friends have transformed themselves into heroin-dabbling, promiscuous hedonists. Finding himself all alone at the end of the world, Dodge wants nothing to do with any of this, and instead sinks into apocalyptic ennui (for a comedy, we get a lot of Carrell staring longingly off into the distance). That is until he meets quirky neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), who suffers from hypersomnia and an over-enthused love of her record collection. After a riot on their block nearly gets them killed, the two run off to live what’s left of their lives by misadventure—with Dodge looking for a long lost love, and Penny looking for a way to make it back to her family.

The world Dodge and Penny now inhabit is supposed to be strange and quirky. This is no surprise, seeing as how writer/director Lorene Scafaria penned the painfully phony attempt at teenage kook, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008). Don’t worry, this film is an improvement, as the characters’ idiosyncrasies are downplayed, even if we still get references to John Cale and wardrobe teams still figure out how to outfit Steve Carell in a hoodie. Where this goes wrong is that the odd world Scafaria’s creating is uneven and often stretches credulity. In the grand tradition of science fiction, Scafaria attempts to build a universe that exists all by its lonesome, but it’s world that doesn’t feel natural. Yeah, a lone chain restaurant slouching toward Judgement Day full of free love and free drugs is amusing, but Penny’s survivalist ex-boyfriend (Derek Luke), or the stranger (TV actor William Peterson) who’s hired a hitman to end his life, come off feeling forced. Too much of the story bows at the feet of the script.

In the film’s favor, it never quite devolves into rom-com basic, though it easily could have. The film has a strange way of oscillating between going further than you expect it to, and doing exactly what you predict. Seeking a Friend is driven by plot, with the trade-off being that nothing—especially the growth of our leads—feels natural. Their eventual emotional attachment feels phony and shoehorned into the film. The idea is obviously to have a pall of death, melancholy, and even existential dread hanging over everything, but with flimsy (and pretty dull) lead characters, Seeking a Friend never earns the emotional response it so desperately wants. Rated R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence.

 

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10 thoughts on “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

  1. Dionysis

    “Dull” is the word that I associate with every performance by Steve Carell I’ve seen so far; not funny, not even mildly so (and that includes his time as a Daily Show regular). I’ve not yet figured out why he keeps getting movie roles. He seems likeable enough, but just…dull.

  2. luluthebeast

    Sounds like I’d much rather pop in a dvd of Don McKellar’s LAST NIGHT (1998).

  3. Big Al

    “Sounds like I’d much rather pop in a dvd of Don McKellar’s LAST NIGHT (1998).”

    How about “MIRACLE MILE” (1989)?

  4. Ken Hanke

    I can get along just fine without an end of the world movie.

  5. luluthebeast

    I love ‘em, unless it’s boring like this new one looks.

  6. Xanadon't

    Seeking a Friend for the End of the World can’t be gloomier than Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, can it?

    I think I’ll give this a look, in hopes that it’s one of those rare occasions where I side with Mr. Richard Roeper over Mr. Justin Souther. And what the hell, it could very well be another decade or so before I get a chance to see Knightly in a non-period piece role.

  7. Ken Hanke

    Few things could be gloomier (or worse) than Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World, but I think you’ve missed your chance on this one. It appears to have already vanished.

  8. Xanadon't

    It appears to have already vanished.

    Well despite its absence from the “Still Showing” line-up, Seeking a Friend still has a screen at Carmike. I caught it yesterday and I really liked it. Never saw Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist -and from the sounds of things I need’nt bother- but as I was watching this movie it struck me that there’s a poet somewhere inside this Lorene Scafaria.

    Is it a quirky comedy? A depressing tract on the eventuality of death? Well, itТs neither, and by never picking a tone, Seeking a Friend isnТt much of anything.

    I’d say we fundamentally disagree here. In my case it was precisely because the film refuses to be tightly bound to either track of sentiment that it worked so well from me. I thought it moved between the two identities with a certain amount of gentle grace and was strongest when it was inhabiting a space somewhere in between. There’s much in the film dealing with the idea of “being present” that I thought was handled very nicely. This also provides much of the reason that I can’t agree that “Their eventual emotional attachment feels phony and shoehorned into the film.”

    Also, for me the scene at Friendsy’s (Where everyone is your friend) was among the most effective purely comedic scenes I’ve witnessed in a good long while. Nine times out of ten a scene like that feels obnoxious, over-reaching, and at least slightly mean-spirited in a way that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Here I thought it was approached with a same sensitivity and basic, but observant, warm-heartedness that makes the movie work.

    So yeah, happy to find myself in disagreement on this one.

  9. Ken Hanke

    Well, blame the manager at the theater for not including it on the movie listings he sent me. It may have been a late in the day pick-up, since they’ve gotten so little this summer, they’re desperate for product. (I think their booker sold their souls to get THE DARK KNIGHT next week.)

    As to the film, I can’t weigh in since I haven’t seen it.

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