Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Taking a heavy subject and giving it some light, writer/director Lorene Scofaria (screenwriter of "Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist") toys with Earth’s final days in the indie-ish flick, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
When a 70-mile asteroid is headed toward our planet and our last attempt to stop it has failed, the inhabitants of Earth realize they only have 21 days left to live. This realization causes the wife of insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell - his wife played by his real wife Nancy) to immediately leave him - literally running away as fast as she can.
Meanwhile, his wild-child British neighbor Penny (Keira Knightly) is in the middle of breaking up with her boyfriend Owen (Adam Brody) and unsure what to do next with her life. While her situation begs one to question why she cares if they are all going to die soon anyway, Dodge’s circumstances are more tragic; with the end of the world less than a month away, who do you die with when the closest person to you has left?
Dodge and Penny wind up meeting under "meet cute" circumstances as only quirky rom-com’s do, and after spending a platonic night together, the two form a bond. When she returns some mail of his that accidentally found its way into hers - mail that is months’ old - he discovers a letter from his first true love admitting that she, too, has never gotten over him.
With nary an address to find her, and with riots breaking out all over the city, Dodge and Penny escape New York in search of two things: Dodge’s teenage love Olivia, and a plane Dodge knows of that could get Penny home to see her family before everything is over.
Their journey will take them across state lines and into the lives of various people including a happily suicidal trucker, a hedonistic chain restaurant, an old flame of Penny’s that is hiding out in a bunker, and a night of jail time. But through it all they will learn about themselves and try to understand their lives before they end.
"Seeking a Friend..." is not a predictable movie for sure and there are some lovely moments throughout. Dodge’s insight into why he stayed in a loveless marriage and settled into a joyless existence as an insurance salesman are insightful. Penny’s optimistic outlook on everything hides an inner sadness at where her life has ended up. Her regret that her chronic irresponsibility has made her miss out on seeing her family, is also a heart-breaker.
But while it is not predictable, it is also slightly aimless and a bit unrealistic. As the two make their way through the countryside, the world becomes strangely empty. These two have no problem getting around and there are barely any people around - even in suburban neighborhoods. It’s the Apolocypse as if it’s been scrubbed by ABC Family. There is no chaos; just expansive space of no activity.
Carell is good no matter what he does, but this role felt strangely familiar. Like a more depressed version of "Dan in Real Life" or "Crazy Stupid Love." Knightly, on the other hand, is so game to be a whacky comedienne that she ends up feeling terribly miscast. While certainly a good actress and acquits herself as best she can, there is a disconnect between she and Carell that doesn’t make the third act romance work at all. And this is the emotional core of the piece. This is what is supposed to make the end of the film so heartfelt. But it doesn’t quite work.
Perhaps having someone like Emily Blunt in the role would have worked better. She’s warmer and can mix the humor with the seriousness in a way that melts our hearts. Knightly hits all the notes, but the connection to the audience just isn’t there.
There are some truly funny moments, especially in the first third that play with the notion of how people would react to the end of day: the self -involvement. Going around with blinders on. It all works and is hilarious. But as the film meanders to it’s finish, it loses the humor and focuses on serious topics that are sometimes interesting, and sometimes too mundane and expected. Which is a shame. I wanted a bit more profundity. Instead, I got a diverting trifle that is cute, but needed to be more.