Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
In an open frame of mind, one can easily accept the film as a life-affirming romance, despite the foregone conclusion.
In 21 days, a 70-mile-wide asteroid will vaporize the Earth: no more putting off that bucket list. That’s the premise of the dramedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
Writer-director Lorene Scafaria has a strong starting point there, though the road trip that follows is something of a ramble instead of a well-mapped journey. Steve Carell plays Dodge Petersen, a sad-sack insurance agent, who just can’t embrace the “anything goes” ethic seizing his friends during these end days. Left by his wife, Dodge dutifully reports to work and resists the urging of friends (including Connie Britton and Rob Corddry) to find the nearest warm body. “I’m not going to spend the last month of my life getting to know someone,” he insists. “It’s ridiculous.”
As it would happen, that’s precisely what happens when Dodge abruptly gets to know his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), a flittering Brit who’s about had it with her boyfriend (Adam Brody). It’s her parents she pines to see before the end of the world, so with Dodge’s encouragement (and the promise of a private plane at the end of the rainbow), Penny grabs an armload of record albums and hits the road. Dodge has his own agenda: to reunite with his high-school sweetheart, “the one that got away.”
Carell and Knightley make appealing leads, grounding the material and helping to earn its tones of melancholy and sweetness. Dodge’s gentle soul and Penny’s lively one prove complementary in making their way through a changed world, and the actors enable suspension of disbelief. (Also crucial: a late appearance by an unbilled actor of note.) In an open frame of mind, one can easily accept the film as a life-affirming romance, despite the foregone conclusion.
Despite those complaints, this is a movie that I enjoyed immensely. Not only did I laugh quite often, I’m also not ashamed to say that I got a little misty by the end, which I don’t want to spoil. Certain aspects of it are predictable and sentimental, but by that point the movie had already won me over and I simply didn’t care.
I really hope this movie finds its audience and I believe it will, even if not upon its initial release. It’s quirky and funny enough that I think it will live on in DVD and downloadable formats.