An asteroid is heading straight for earth and we all have a month until certain death. What do you do? This is the basic set up behind Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a new drama-comedy from writer director, Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)).
When the radio announces news of their doom, Dodge (Steve Carell) is sitting in the car with his wife, Linda (Nancy Carell). With three weeks to live, Linda runs away and leaves her husband without a word.
While the world collapses into various shades of anarchy around him, Dodge enters into a deep despair. His friends go wild with heroin fuelled parties, attempting to set him up with women he’s not interested in, the streets erupt in riots, and Dodge keeps on going to work, using his last weeks to experience his first mid-life crisis. He hits rock bottom. He drinks a bottle of window cleaner. He wakes up in a park with a new dog, Sorry.
When he finds a letter from his ex, inadvertently delivered to his bohemian neighbour, Penny (Keira Knightley), Dodge sets off to find his old girlfriend and recover one last chance at happiness. Penny, who feels responsible for his lost opportunity, goes with him despite the fact that she’s desperate to get home and see her family before the world ends.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an enjoyable, bitter-sweet film with some moments of genuine laugh-out-loud deadpan comedy – the scene with the spider is a fantastic bit of cinema storytelling. Steve Carell goes well into the kind of Mr. Average Nice Guy downbeat role we’ve seen from him a few times now in films like Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011) and Dan in Real Life (2007) and honestly, it is his talent and appeal that stops this film being just another quirky romance.
Keira Knightley has never overly impressed me and while she wasn’t unbearable in the role of Penny, I would have preferred a different, less insipid, actor.
Along their journey, Dodge and Penny (and Sorry) encounter some curious side characters and situations. Orgiastic bar tenders, philosophising truck drivers with a death wish, small town cops bent on martial law, and soldiers planning to repopulate the earth – it’s these encounters that lay the film’s greatest strength. There’s also a cameo from a mighty old looking, Martin Sheen.
As they travel, they also get to know each other and despite his proclamations at the beginning of the film, Dodge finds himself falling in love. While it provided some sweet spots, I didn’t really buy the depth of the relationship between Dodge and Penny by the end. It seemed too rushed and too underdeveloped. But perhaps they just had to speed things up a bit before the asteroid hit.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World won’t blow your mind on any level, but it is light and agreeable, despite its gloomy prospects, and there should be enough here to please romantics with a wry sense of humour. It was also interesting to watch an End of Days movie that took the opposite end of the spectrum, going instead for romance instead of action.
How would you spend your final days?