A modest little tale of the apocalypse, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World holds some touching scenes. It’s the end of the world, after all, so shouldn’t a tear or two be shed?
Steve Carell stars as another of his sad-sack guys living on the outskirts of life. Unlike the humans gone wild around him, Carell’s morosely low-key insurance salesman, Dodge, has no desire to dive into orgies, stay drunk all the time, shoot heroin or smash windows.
Dodge gives the impression he’s the same cheerless little man he’s always been. Yet he is puzzled by his wife’s desertion of him just as their time, and everyone else’s time, is about to end.
British actress Keira Knightley co-stars as Penny, Carell’s flighty downstairs neighbor. Despite all of the time they’ve lived in the same apartment building, they’ve only just met. Or, as Karen Carpenter might say, they’ve only just begun.
As the world descends into chaos, madness and riots, Penny also finds herself without a partner with whom to share the end of time.
Dodge and Penny are an unlikely pair. For one thing, as her selfish, ex-boyfriend who won’t go away points out, Dodge is old. Penny is just 28 and, despite the hatchet hairdo Knightley has in the movie, lovely.
Penny’s ex-boyfriend has a point. As Dodge and Penny, Carell and Knightley never seem a real couple. Their characters are more pawns to be manipulated within writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s soft, underperforming screenplay.
As Seeking a Friend for the End of the World opens, a 70-mile-wide asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Impact is expected in three weeks. Meanwhile, life as Dodge knows it unravels, though some people insist upon staying remarkably true to their routines.
At Dodge’s office, the surviving staff members are calmly informed they may dress as if every day is casual Friday. And if anyone is interested in applying for the company’s suddenly open executive positions, applications are being accepted.
Dodge and Penny escape from the city and take a road trip that may yield what each of them want most of all during their final days. Dodge and Penny’s blooming end-of-the-world affair plays out against a soundtrack provided by the cherished vinyl LPs she rescues from her apartment. Her love for the big old records is supposed to endear her to moviegoers.
Penny is the vivacious optimist of the two. Dodge is the blank, empty shell. Against all odds, they fall in love. When things get serious, the movie’s subtle humor goes out the window of the borrowed smart car in which the pair seeks fulfillment at the end of the world.
Melancholia, a much better movie with the same premise and similar intimacy, debuted last year. Seeking a Friend at the End of the World is a romantic comedy about doom. Melancholia is something between dreams and dramatic meditation. Neither film will be seen by huge audiences, but Melancholia, written and directed by visionary Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier and starring mainstream actress Kirsten Dunst, is the greater and far more honest and poetic of the two.
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