Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
PLOT: It's the end of the world as we know it and Dodge doesn't feel fine. Upon hearing the news in the car one evening, his wife opens the door and takes off leaving him alone. It isn’t until he finds another lost soul named Penny that he actually begins to feel alive. The two soon go searching for a way for her to get back to her family and for him to revisit an old flame. If only these two crazy kids could work things out before the inevitable end.
Dodge and Linda (Steve Carell and his real life wife Nancy) sit together in a car pulled over to the side of the road. They are listening to the worst possible news. As the radio announces the end of the world the two sit in silence. After a moment, and an awkward reaction from Dodge, Linda gets up and takes off into the night. And so Lorene Scafaria’s SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD begins. This apocalyptic nightmare is presented as a dramatic comedy with shades of tragedy. While Dodge desperately tries to continue with his daily routine by going to work every day, he is well aware of the fact that he only has a few days left. This is especially evident when a suicidal jumper crashes onto the hood of his car soon after pulling into his parking space.
SEEKING A FRIEND is a study in loneliness. Through Dodge’s eyes we see how others react in their final days. One compelling moment features the very talented Connie Britton (TV’s “American Horror Story” and “Friday Night Lights”) as a married woman desperate for affection. Britton plays wife to Rob Corddry (TV’s “Children’s Hospital”) who is finding his own way to cope as well. It is the exploration of the end that carries such an intriguing idea throughout Scafaria’s feature. And with Dodge, we see a man who is hoping to do exactly what the title suggests. Predictably, the connection comes from a neighbor that he hadn’t even talked to for three years. Sometimes being able to share your feelings of abandonment and fear with another person can do wonders for with the threat of an apocalypse.
As Dodge’s neighbor Penny, Keira Knightley offers a warm and honest portrait of somebody totally alone and afraid. With the two actors, there is a deep and sincere connection that makes SEEKING A FRIEND worth seeking out. As with any other romantic comedy (I suppose you could call this one), it is not hard to guess that the leading couple will somehow come together. It is to this film’s credit that you actually do wonder as to what level it may happen. Both actors are terrific as two emotionally damaged individuals who find comfort in each others company. Even when the script wanders off into some strange and formulaic situation, these two actors keep the story grounded.
What is essentially a road movie - as Dodge and Penny each go searching for their ultimate destination – the travels don't always feel like a necessity. At one point Penny goes to talk to an ex-boyfriend who conveniently can offer the couple a vehicle - and shelter if she would come back to him. While it was sort of interesting seeing the survivalist mentality when it comes to the end of the world, it didn’t feel necessary for the story at hand. The same could be said for another scene where the two nearly run into some sort of commune making their way to the beach. Both of these sequences seem to slow down the pace and don’t really add much to their journey aside from convincing the audience they are falling for each other… we kind of already figured that out.
SEEKING A FRIEND is an unusually emotional look at what it would be like to see the world come to an end. It features the exceptionally strong casting of Knightley and Carell. The two are quite good together despite their age difference. In fact, it probably would not have worked as well had he not been so much older. It also features strong supporting players including Britton, Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, Martin Sheen and so many more. This beautifully cast romantic feature is a touching yet uneven story of finding love when you have nothing left to lose. And while the ending may be much too conventional for some, it is still a heartfelt yet flawed look at the frailties of being human in a desperate time.