Mark Reviews Movies

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Mark Moses, William Petersen, Patton Oswalt, Martin Sheen

MPAA Rating: R (for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 6/22/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | June 21, 2012

About half of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World embraces the pessimism that could, would, and, well, probably should accompany the prospect of facing an event that will, without any doubt, wipe out every human being on the planet. In this case, the harbinger of doom is an asteroid 70-miles wide. The film starts with a news report on the radio: The space shuttle sent to prevent the massive body from colliding with Earth has exploded. There is, the DJ announces, no hope left.

There is no need to worry, though, as they will still keep playing everyone's favorite classic rock songs for as long as they're able. It's the least they could do, really. The fact that they start off their countdown to the end of the world with the Beach Boys' "Wouldn't It Be Nice" is an ironic slap in the face.

Listening to the broadcast in car on the side of a road are Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife (the briefest of cameos by Carell's real-life wife Nancy). As the song begins to play, she gets out of the car, without a word, and bolts. We know there's nowhere to run when it comes to the asteroid that is scheduled to strike Earth in 21 days; the question is whether she's running to something/someone or from him. It's probably both; the fact that she doesn't even have a single word to say to her husband does not bode well in his favor.

It's the story of Dodge's life, which now has an expiration date. All of the women in all of the romantic relationships he's ever had have run, he points out later in the film (This instance is probably be the first and last time he can use that phrase literally). He has no idea why, and he doesn't really care to find out the reason now. He couldn't even think of starting a new relationship right now, he tells a friend (Connie Britton) who wants to set him up with a woman. Does he want to die alone, the friend asks. As far as we can tell, yes, he would probably prefer that. At least he'd be prepared for it, given that he's essentially lived his entire life alone whether he was fully aware of it or not.

While everyone around him expresses some sort of emotion about the world's imminent demise (At a party, everyone drowns those emotions in alcohol and some illegal substances, which don't seem that dangerous right now), Dodge walks around in a daze, aided by his constant chugging of cough syrup. As far as he's concerned, his life has been a meaningless series of disappointments.

His job as an insurance salesman, which he only took to have a comfortable and financially secure life, seems especially pointless now. He's only one of a handful of employees who still bother to go to work: One is so distraught she spends an entire meeting sobbing; another stares with a blank face before declaring, "Life is meaningless." Dodge still tries; he explains the details of an "Armageddon insurance" package to a customer (When asked if there are any downsides, he seems unable to point out the obvious and instead notes that "The premiums are high").

Out of nowhere, Penny (Keira Knightley) appears outside the window of his apartment. She has nowhere to go, as her now ex-boyfriend is clearing his things out of her apartment. He invites her in, and they begin to talk like a giant asteroid isn't approaching Earth. She notices a photograph in a box through which he had been looking; it's of the girl that got away—the first and only in his mind. Surely, she insists, he should look for her. After he receives a letter from the woman that ends telling him he was her one, true love, Dodge decides he must.

Penny is an eternal optimist, which explains why she took so long to break up with her boyfriend (Adam Brody), who doesn't have a job, is possessive, and can't even stop being a jerk while trying to direct her to get out of a parking spot as a rioting mob is approaching. She even holds out a little hope about the whole asteroid thing, though she would like to see her family back in England either way.

The screenplay by writer/director Lorene Scafaria gains a second life with the introduction of Penny and the resulting road trip that she and Dodge undertake. It's slightly more hopeful in tone, though the absurdity of people attempting to make the best of the worst situation continues in a string of episodic stops along the way to find Dodge's first love.

A chain restaurant that prides itself on friendly employees has turned into a free-for-all of people doing and saying whatever they feel. A police officer (Bob Stephenson) is still trying to fulfill his quota for speeding citations despite Penny's indisputable logic as to why he should let them go just this one time. One of Penny's old boyfriends (Derek Luke) has designed a bomb shelter in his basement, certain he and a select group of people will survive to repopulate the planet. A helpful driver (William Petersen) picks them up for a ride and argues that a man shouldn't know when his time is coming, which might explain why he has a shovel in the backseat of his truck.

If Scafaria replaces the acerbic tenor of so much of the film for a string of more personal revelations and connections during the final act, they are at least honest. Moreover, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World ends the only way it possibly could, too, and more power to Scafaria for that.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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