After failing to break up a gigantic meteor headed directly for earth, NASA announces that the world as we know will be coming to an end in three short weeks. The sky is literally falling. Dodge (Steve Carell) receives this news with somewhat less hysteria than those around him, choosing rather to spend his last remaining moments pondering a life more unlived than lived. His course of regretful contemplation changes, however, when he becomes acquainted with Penny (Keira Knightley), a flighty newcomer to his building with whom he forms an unlikely bond. Dodge and Penny decide to hit the open road with the idea of reuniting Dodge with the one who got away and an eye to finding a plane that can get Penny home to England before the meteor hits. The road holds many surprises, though, and soon the pair finds themselves bonding over their shared experiences and impending doom. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a film I was very much looking forward to when it opened in theaters but one that slipped through the summer viewing cracks. I had a hard time making time for it in the midst of summer blockbuster fun and judging by its poor performance at the box office, I’m guessing this was a common theme. That is perhaps for the better, though, as this is the sort of film that probably makes for a better viewing in the comfort of your own home rather than in a theater seat. Seeking a Friend isn’t great and isn’t a film I’d want to pay $10 to see, let alone watch multiple times, but as far as Red Box rentals or HBO viewings go, it’s a movie that holds some real value. Moreover, I’d say it’s a film that has a little bit of everything, making it a solid pick for date night, group movie night, or, in my case, “sit at home alone on a Thursday evening on which I have nothing better to do than rent a movie” night.
Seeking a Friend has two major positives working in its favor. First, it hits the nail squarely on the head in terms of tone. This is a dark (sometimes VERY dark) comedy, an identity that suits its narrative very well. It is quirky and odd, at times even sobering, but at its heart it is always a dark comedy and this trait carries it further than it could have ever gone as a romance or a serious drama. The best dark comedies can make you laugh at situations or scenes that are inherently unfunny, or even tragic, and on this front the film plays quite well. Secondly and more importantly, Seeking a Friend has Steve Carell and Steve Carell can often make up for a multitude of sins. I can think of no one who personifies the strange but kindly “nice guy” like Carell does, who can handle the sort of dark and somber settings that a movie like this takes its characters to while at the same time instilling in that film a sense of heartfelt levity. He is one of the industry’s best when it comes to making you root for a given character and he brings that trait the table in spades this time around. I love Carell’s presence in just about any film but the understated and subtle ways in which he carries Seeking a Friend deserve special mention.
The rest of the parts that make up this film don’t always measure up to its real strengths. The narrative itself, while an interesting concept, doesn’t have much to it. At times it fluctuates a little too liberally between its playful side and its darker subject matter. And it could have used a steadier, or more experienced, hand at the helm than writer and first time director Lorene Scafaria. I think she allowed Knightley a little too much freedom with her character and she in turn becomes somewhat obnoxious at times. But overall, Seeking a Friend is oddly enjoyable, if not entirely satisfying.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Director: Lorene Scafaria Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen Rated: R (strong language, mature themes) Recommended For: Fans of quirky, dark comedies 16 and up