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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

It's Steve Carell and Keira Knightley at the end of the world. So why isn't it more interesting?

What would you do with the last three weeks of your life before the apocalypse? Reconnect with a long-lost love? Attend a round of hedonistic end-of-the-world parties? Lie on the floor and listen to Mick Jagger records? Or just carry on with your day-to-day drudgeries as usual?

These are all things we see Dodge, played by Steve Carell, attempt—some more successfully than others—in the whispy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. At the beginning of the film, Dodge’s wife has left him to be with her boyfriend, but the news of an impending, globe-killing meteor doesn’t change Dodge’s dreary life hardly at all. At work, as the rest of the staff disappear or throw themselves off the building, Dodge goes to his insurance sales job and offers “apocalypse” packages and deals. He then comes back to an empty apartment, but hey, at least it’s clean. His diligent maid, Elsa, won’t quit her job either.

Then Dodge meets his neighbor, Penny, the first real ray of optimism in this sometimes-drama, sometimes-comedy. Penny (Keira Knightley) wants to take her Beach Boy records and leave her clingy, ultra-emotional boyfriend (Adam Brody) so she can fly back to England where her family lives.

Unfortunately, all air travel has been suspended because of the impending doom, but Dodge knows a guy with a plane. The two make a pact: Dodge will take Penny to the plane if Penny will drive Dodge to find the maybe-love-of-his-life, Olivia. We’ve got ourselves a road trip!

Of course, Penny’s car doesn’t last long, and the pair end up in some wacky places and weird situations. They meet a trucker with a self-paid bounty on his head (William Petersen), a group of extra friendly waiters ready to serve every need, and an ex-beau of Penny’s who is holed up in a titanium bunker.

Each situation and character has an uncomfortable comedic/dramatic dichotomy. In fact, the whole movie feels uncomfortable.
Each situation and character has an uncomfortable comedic/dramatic dichotomy. In fact, the whole movie feels uncomfortable in this way. It never quite meshes. Before he meets Penny, Dodge attends his best friends’ (Rob Corddry and Connie Britton) end-of-the-world party. They try to set him up with another lonely soul (Melanie Lynskey), but Dodge has no interest in her or the party really. He watches Corddry’s character urge kids to drink vodka martinis and then bust out the heroin for some more good times. People are feeling each other up in every corner. It’s a free-for-all.
I’m sure the party was intended as a comedic scene, but the debauchery was so vacant and the attendees so cynical that it comes across as more depressing. There are some truly funny parts in the movie, most memorably at the Friendsy’s restaurant scene where the waiters have taken their jobs of making friends with the customers to a whole new level of service. It’s one big riotous party in there, and at least it doesn’t have the pessimism of the earlier house party.

But even that scene doesn’t feel right in juxtaposition with more dramatic scenes, like Penny talking and crying with her family on the phone or Dodge seeing his father for the first time in 25 years. It all felt too unnatural. Knightley and Carell play their roles adequately, although the mopey Dodge isn’t new territory for Carell. Knightley’s Penny is the brightest, sweetest flower blooming out of Seeking a Friend. She gives us the most heart and personality of anyone we see, but it’s not enough to carry the whole film.

But most disappointing of all, Seeking a Friend never addresses any of the big questions of what will happen after the earth is wiped out. Religion is never part of the discussion except in a few, tiny moments. When Penny and Dodge meet, she asks him what he’ll be doing for the rest of his life, and he jokes about “finding God.” During the road trip, Dodge and Penny end up on a beach where a long line of people are being baptized in the ocean, but the two of them don’t join the people or even comment on it. We just see it—meaninglessly.

If there is a message in this movie—and I’m not sure there is—then it might be to seek every moment as if it’s your last and live without regret. Because, according to Seeking a Friend, these are the only moments you’ll get, and if you’re lucky, you will spend them with someone you love.

If that sounds like a thoroughly depressing time at the movie theater, well, it might be, depending on your point of view. But I didn’t leave feeling too discouraged. If anything, the movie brought my sight into clearer focus. It made me joyful to remember that I believe a different message, one where “What’s the point?” actually has an answer – and our hope isn't limited to this world.

8 Comments

85,008

Anonymous reviewed…

I agree that the party scene was beneficial to create the contrast in the story, I just feel like it could've been done a little more tastefully.

Georgia

5

Georgia reviewed…

Heartily agree. I was disappointed in the complete lack of focus in the movie. Seemed like they were trying to do too many different things and therefore didn't do any of them well, or explain them well. It wasn't very funny, wasn't very serious...the party scene didn't say anything except how vapid everyone was except Dodge who was there moping.

The names Penny & Dodge were a little much too I thought. Small rant--if there are only a few days left to live and you wanted to get to your family across the ocean (even if you were having a few second thoughts about leaving Steve Carrell) would you really kill a whole evening making dinner at some random house and then hang out for hours with random people getting baptized on the beach? No. You would not.

Corey Stone

11

Corey Stone reviewed…

I thought it was a sweet love story. Though unrealistic at times, I don't think it was aiming for realism. The ending was uber-depressing though, of course I knew it was coming.

85,008

Benjamin reviewed…

I thought this movie ran out of steam within the first act. Not one of the main characters conversations went anywhere and meant anything. The dialogue was dull and uninspired, and a lot of the scenes were random and never quite fitted together. A very unfocused movie staring people i could not have cared less about.

Adam

3

Adam reviewed…

Loved this movie!

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