Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World (2012)
July 15, 2012 1 Comment
With their last hopes dashed – the rescue mission to divert the encroaching asteroid having failed – the human race must come to terms with its own inevitable demise. As the three week countdown to Armageddon begins, and people respond to the news in a variety of ways (whether by wearing all of the clothes they’d never dared to, swearing live on air or committing suicide), Dodge is left to face his fate alone when his wife leaves him in the middle of their morning commute. Forced to flee his home when riots break out across the country, Dodge (Steve Carell) and English neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley) strike a deal: he will take her to an aeroplane so that she can be with her family if she agrees to help him find his childhood sweetheart – the real love of his life.
I feel it is important to note that, whilst viewing the film, five of the original eleven-strong audience left and never came back. Alongside the poor reviews and relatively limited release, it seems that Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is one of those movies that you either love or you hate. I, just to be awkward, thought it was pretty much fine.
I’m not sure what’s caused so many people to take issue with the film – while reading the comments section on an Empire review is never heartening, in this case the reactions seems particularly feverish and unjustified – but I imagine it has something to do with its unhurried pace (not to mention indulgent length), dryly dark sense of humour and its tendency to eschew drama in favour of quiet – very quiet – and ever-so-slighly repetitive character moments between our two leads.
The truth is, however, that there is a lot to like – if not necessary love – in director Lorene Scafaria’s film, Carell and Knightley excelling in their respective roles as despondent ex-insurance salesman and hippy-ish British hypersomniac. Not quite as melancholic as the similarly themed Melancholia, the film’s tone nevertheless allows the former to finally perfect his defeatist persona while the latter displays some surprisingly nuanced comic timing. Even the character quirks that mark this out as a decidedly indy production are acted into inconsequence by two performers arguably at the top of their game.
It’s just a pity that Scafaria isn’t quite as successful in her work as either writer or director. Even more meandering and apparently directionless as Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (somewhat in spite of the impending apocalypse), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is neither as funny or as affecting as it ought to be considering what is at stake. After the effective opening (which contains most of the film’s net humour and even a jump-out-of your-seat surprise), the film makes a concession to the typical road movie format as the plot gives way to a conveyor-belt of increasingly unlikely and forgettable characters. While the film finds its feet again towards the end, pretty much in line with the arrival of Martin Sheen, Scafaria’s decision to back-track on a certain last-act development robs the film of a worthy conclusion.
If you’re willing to go with it – whatever the cost – there is just enough sweetness and pathos in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World to reward your patience and perseverance. Should you go in expecting a Carell-brand laugh-riot or one of Knightley’s trademark dramedies, however, you will likely feel miss-sold a movie that is anything but.