What would you do if you found out the world would be ending in three weeks, after the last ditch effort by mankind to stop a 70-mile-wide asteroid from coming crashing down to Earth had failed? Everyone copes with disaster in their own way, and, if you’re Dodge Peterson (Steve Carrell) in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD, you deal with the pending apocalypse by continuing on with the same boring mundane existence you’ve been living since birth. You keep going into the office to sell insurance. You keep checking your mail. You ponder why your wife waited until now to finally leave you, and you reflect on your entire life being made up of regrets of things you didn’t do, because you never bothered to stray from the norm. Dodge marks another one of those pathetic, loser-ish characters that Carrell has made his bread and butter, but what makes this one click particularly well is the cluelessness in which he operates. There is plenty of funny stuff in SEEKING A FRIEND that takes place around Dodge, but he seems almost oblivious to it happening, deadpanning his way as the straight man caught in the middle of the ridiculous. Whether it’s a classic rock radio station counting down to the end of the world with all your favorite hits, the end of the world awareness concert or traffic still being reported simply as “We’re fucked,” it’s the details of SEEKING A FRIEND that make for its best moments, all while Dodge attempts to figure out what he wants from the final 21 days of his life. He can’t even bother to get rid of his cleaning lady, because he’s too good a guy to hurt her feelings, as she doesn’t get why she wouldn’t come back next week either.
Dodge’s days are given a bit of purpose when he crosses paths with his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), who is also quite lost in who she is and what she’s been doing with herself this whole time. She’s stuck with a dead-end boyfriend. Her family all lives overseas. She’s got nothing but her record collection… so what better time to try to figure it all out and put some of it together than right at the end. Dodge and Penny make a pact after she agrees not to steal anything in his apartment if he won’t rape her to help each other get somewhere before times runs out – he to meet the first girl to have gotten away and her to see her family once more. And from there, their adventure together “on the scenic route to the guillotine” begins.
It’s too bad that Knightley really brings the film down though, as, upon her first appearance, the movie starts trending in this meandering, overly sentimental direction. It loses all of its quirks and cleverness that kept you interested in favor of a pairing of Carrell and Knightley that sounds so mismatched as… well, a pairing of Carrell and Knightley. They just never click together, and their chemistry is all off as it becomes increasingly clear that there’s a certain level of understanding and care developing between them. However, it’s not because they gel so well together, as the approaching asteroid feels like it has a lot more to do with it than natural attraction. I mean, if there was no one else in the picture, I could totally buy Carrell and Knightley having end of the world sex, but slowly falling in love in order to fill each others’ voids…? It doesn’t come together as the movie hopes it will.
Lorene Scafaria really does have aspects of a smart script and story trapped somewhere beneath the sappiness, and, quite often you get to see it. There are very funny appearances by Rob Corddry, T.J. Miller and Patton Oswalt along the way that make you wish the path our doom is paved with laughter, but, when Knightley helps steer it into a different direction, you can’t help but desire another movie for the end of the world.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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