Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 6 September 2012
Category: Reviews
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With three weeks to go before an asteroid smashes into the Earth and the world comes to an end two very different people set out to make the most of the time they have left in this comedy drama starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The WorldI was feeling quite melancholic as I sat down to watch the press screening of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World. I don't know whether this was the best or worst frame of mind in which to be to watch a movie with "the end of the world" as a central plot point but it was very reflective of the state of mind of insurance salesman Dodge Petersen, played by Steve Carell, allowing me to empathise heavily with the character who is essentially a straight man in a depressing world filled with strange scenarios played for laughs.

In fact, the movie is an odd mix of the two. Central to the premise is the very sobering fact that an asteroid named Matilda is heading for Earth and our last hope to save the situation, a space mission, has gone awry, which means, basically, that's it. Matilda will smash into the planet in three weeks and there's nothing left to be done bar decide what you want to do with your remaining time.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The WorldIn suburbia dinner parties escalate to hedonistic wild nights fuelled by sex and drugs while more militaristic suburbanites prepare for the end of the world by building bunkers and amassing resources. In the city riots break out. Some people are unable to comprehend that the end of the world is coming (notably in a minor storyline involving Dodge and his cleaner Elsa (Tonita Castro) that is strange and out of place). Others decide to end their lives on their own terms, either by committing suicide or hiring an assassin. Most of these scenarios are presented in a humourous fashion, none of which I found at all funny until we reached a scene about halfway through the movie that is set in a restaurant called Friendsy's. Gillian Jacobs, playing a waitress named Katie, delivered a line so superbly that I couldn't help but laugh, though soon after the scene devolved into the usual silly and over-the-top "humour" that left me wishing the pace would pick up and that the movie would get to the point instead of constantly diverging into silliness.

The movie actually begins rather abruptly with the camera moving in to show two occupants of a car parked at the side of a road at night. As the camera gets closer we see that the man and woman are looking quite stunned and then the woman, in the passenger seat, opens the door and runs off. A radio broadcast sets the scene at the same time, detailing the asteroid plot but I was too busy trying to get my bearing visually (Where are we? Who's in the car? Is that Steve Carell? Is that Steve Carell's real-life wife?) to take it all in. I was thankful that I already knew that the asteroid plot was the base upon which the story is built otherwise I would have been confused until later when scenes begin to be anchored by TV broadcasts with a newsman (Mark Moses) who presents updates about the asteroid and the state of the world.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The WorldIn that moment of the radio broadcast Linda Petersen (and yes, she's played by Steve Carell's real-life wife, comedian Nancy Carell, in a cameo appearance) decides that she wants to spend the remaining time with her lover, hence her flight from the car, which leaves Dodge Petersen alone and confused. For a few days he continues with his routine, though escalating madness around him increasingly intrudes on his ability to do this. Time passes erratically to the viewer - the three-week and two-week markers are presented but events that happen in between and seem to take days themselves often turn out only to be a couple of hours. It becomes disconcerting as central to both the plot and the pace is the fact that time is running out and, as a viewer, you want a better understanding of where the characters are within that.

Along the way he meets his free-spirited neighbour Penny Lockhart (Keira Knightley) and, once a riot breaks out and threatens their apartments, each decides to help the other in their respective quests for their final days. The story then becomes a road trip with odd adventures that are mostly thrown in for laughs. Dodge wants to find his high school sweetheart who had recently sent a letter proclaiming him to be the love of her life while Penny is trying to find a way back to the UK to be with her family as commercial flights have been grounded so only private pilots are able to fly.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

On the technical side this is a modest movie with a small cast, few special effects, and uncomplicated locations but this helps to make it feel more intimate. It also has a fantastic soundtrack that is a mix of 80s pop hits and older vinyl classics that have been chosen carefully to match the scenes in which they appear - notably a party where the bulk of the music played is from the 80s, because the majority of the people at the party grew up in that era, and during scenes in which Penny's extensive vinyl collection, and music in general, is a key topic.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The WorldFrustratingly, there are occasional insightful throwaway moments of real human behaviour that if better explored (and if there were more of them), would have made for a much more contemplative and stronger piece and I would gladly have swapped some of the silly scenes for more of these points to mull over. Some of the better ones include a dinner-party guest (Melanie Lynskey) arriving in a tiara, fur coat, and jewels that are "everything I ever wore!" because why not? In another the dinner-party hostess (Connie Britton) makes sexual advances towards Dodge and when he points out that she's married she replies matter-of-factly that no one belongs to anyone anymore.

Low-key moments such as these are really how humanity should be explored rather than in over-the-top scenes whose actual premise, often lost in the crazy antics, is how different people might react to the world ending. These scenes aren't realistic or funny and it turns the whole movie into a weird contrast of little bits of smart buried by silliness and caricatures with Dodge (and later Frank, played by Martin Sheen) being the only person drifting through it who seems to behave like a normal person.

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The WorldIn contrast, the ending is perfect. With a movie such as this you know that the ending is going to be the end of the world so instead of the usual experience of the plot building to some sort of "save the world" climax you spend the entire movie wondering how the filmmakers are going to handle such a difficult and sensitive issue. They do a spectacular job and the final minutes are very emotionally satisfying, so much so you'll likely tend to forget the science and logic of it all until much later.

The movie also leaves you with questions to ponder. Chief among them, of course, is who would you pick as your end-of-the-world companion? Would you wait to witness the world ending or would you find a way to end your life on your terms? What would you do with the time you had left? Would you try and have all the experiences you'd missed out on because you were playing it safe for a long-term game or would you just want to spend the remaining time with a person, or people, important to you? What is important when nothing is important anymore?

Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

Even though much of Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World comprises scenes played for laughs that, to my mind, fall flat I still liked this small, gentle movie filled with deep (though sometimes obscured) questions. Although it is sobering, the film - and some of the bigger questions it left me with - continue to pop into my mind. It is a change from the average vapid popcorn fare that's forgotten in minutes. Be in the right mind to see this film (and what that is will differ from person to person) but see it.

The review screening was courtesy of Nu Metro. Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is on circuit in South Africa and will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray in the US in November 2012.

Tags: #screen, #speculative_fiction





brainwavez.org Opinion
Rating: 6/10
In One Word: Ponderous



Key Facts: Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Year: 2012
Running Time: 101 minutes
Genre/Keywords: apocalypse, comedy, drama, road trip
Format: Feature; Widescreen 2.35:1; Black and White; Colour
Language: English
Country: USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia
Credits:
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Cast:
Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World
Steve Carell ... Dodge
Mark Moses ... Anchorman
Keira Knightley ... Penny
Adam Brody ... Owen
Tonita Castro ... Elsa
Connie Britton ... Diane
Rob Corddry ... Warren
Kasey Campbell ... Danny
Melanie Lynskey ... Karen
Patton Oswalt ... Roache
Aleister ... Sorry
William Petersen ... Trucker
T.J. Miller ... Chipper Host / Darcy
Gillian Jacobs ... Waitress / Katie
Bob Stephenson ... Officer Wally Johnson
Derek Luke ... Speck
Martin Sheen ... Frank
Writing: Lorene Scafaria
Producers:
Nicole Brown ... executive producer
Steve Golin ... producer
Joy Gorman ... producer
Nathan Kahane ... executive producer
Kelli Konop ... co-producer
Patty Long ... line producer
Steven M. Rales ... producer
Mark Roybal ... producer
Original Music: Jonathan Sadoff and Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: Tim Orr
Film Editing: Zene Baker
Casting: Nicole Abellera and Jeanne McCarthy
Production Design: Chris L. Spellman
Set Decoration: Kathy Lucas
Costume Design: Kristin M. Burke

[ full cast and crew ]



On The Internet



Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World Official Movie Trailer: YouTube link ]



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