Seen: On my parents’ tv, on some HD movie channel.
Consider this: In three weeks, an asteroid will strike earth, ending all life on the planet. Everyone in the world has three weeks to live. What to do? I’d probably try to travel if I could, see Japan and Egypt and Vienna. Of course, time with loved ones would also be a priority, and watching every movie and reading every book I could. Lorene Scafaria’s characters in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World react to this news in a variety of ways: suicide, drugs, orgies, riots, relentless optimism, and the like. After his wife literally runs away from him, hypochondriac insurance agent Dodge (Steve Carrell) comes to the realization that his entire life has been meaningless. He meets a British neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), who fears she’ll never see her family again, and the two end up on a road trip to fulfill their last wishes. Dodge hopes to find his long-lost first love and Penny hopes to find a plane to take her to England as the countdown to the apocalypse draws to a close.
I am a bit of a sucker for a road trip romance, I just like the story structure that generally accompanies road trip movies- making jokes, running into trouble, learning about each other through forced close quarters, long shots of the open road, meeting kooky characters along the way, etc. Seeking a Friend follows some of these tropes, but with a central premise so fascinating that even the stereotypical elements in the script take on more weight. Scafaria explores various aspects of human nature through how different people might respond to the apocalypse, and it reads both humorous and utterly depressing. And generally pretty true. Of course everyone would eat everything, do drugs, and sleep with whomever they could. Of course many couples would dissipate or experiment or regret their whole history. Of course some survivalists would stock up on guns and food and huddle down in underground bomb shelters. And of course some people would meet for the first time and fall in love just before the world ends. I mean, why not?
The film is an at-times cutesy, at-times moving exploration of its theme, with a strong cast and a great script. I like sad-sack Carrell, he’s suited for the role of a quiet man whose mid-life crisis happens to include tracking down his first girlfriend while gradually falling in love with a slightly eccentric younger woman while an asteroid happens to be heading towards earth. I normally don’t like Knightley but she’s fine here, cinematically quirky but sympathetic and unglamorous. The cameos are great, from Gillian Jacobs and Melanie Lynskey to Martin Sheen and Derek Luke, with some fulfilling a comedic function and others moving the story along. Most of all I think I liked the conversations best, just the one-on-one interactions between Dodge and Penny as they get to know each other under these bizarre and terrifying conditions.
It’s far from a perfect film, but it made me cry so I guess they did something right. The music choices certainly helped.
Pair This Movie With: I would show it with one of my favorite road-trip romances, Wristcutters: A Love Story, which also has nice bits of surrealism and satire in it. For more Lorene Scafaria, there’s the enjoyable one-night comedy Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, which she co-wrote. Lots of good tunes and driving in this one, too, so I guess she has a type.by