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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: C
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World gets right to the point: In the opening scene, Dodge (Steve Carell) is in his car with his wife, listening to a radio news broadcast. A shuttle mission to destroy a 70-mile-wide asteroid headed directly for Earth has failed. There are no other backup plans. In roughly three weeks time, life on Earth will end. Dodge's wife gets out of the car without another word and we never see her again.

In this way, this movie gets our attention. Dodge is a sad, lonely man. Will he make his last weeks on Earth meaningful? Given that much of this movie is surprisingly light-hearted, you probably already know the answer to that question.

The thing is, this story has essentially been done before. The Canadian film Last Night (1998), which used an ensemble cast rather than zeroing in on two characters, honestly did it better. One wonders, though, if Seeking a Friend writer-director Lorene Scafaria ever saw Last Night. The latter also featured a sad and lonely (albeit much younger) man with a soul-crushing job he keeps pointlessly coming back to.

In this case, Dodge is an insurance salesman. And there are a lot of odd choices people make in this movie. In one scene, someone at Dodge's workplace offers up the position of CFO to any takers. I'm at a loss as to why anyone keeps coming to work at all if the world is known to be ending in 21 days. Maybe the comfort of everyday living? It all seemed a little pointless to me. Why even charge for that bottle of window cleaner Dodge buys at the store?

Dodge takes that bottle of window cleaner to a park and passes out while drinking it. Somehow, when he wakes up, he's fine. Except for the dog someone left with him. A note on his chest just says, Sorry. Evidently that's the dog's name. The dog is in nearly every scene thereafter.

I kept waiting for something terrible to happen to Dodge. There is the requisite scene of rioting in the streets, but once he and his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) escape that, the movie tends to be rather subdued. People in the suburbs don't freak out?

To be fair, some terrible things happen to some other people. Some weird things too. In some cases, both at once. One guy Dodge and Penny meet on their little road trip, Dodge on his way to reconnect with an old flame, has hired a hit man to come and kill him. The deed is done at a most unexpected moment. On the upside, it leaves Dodge and Penny with a working vehicle to drive.

Penny, by the way, is Dodge's neighbor, of three years, though they never really talked. But after she's seen sobbing outside Dodge's window on the fire escape, he invites her in. Somehow they connect. And thus the basis for this entire movie is revealed.

And actually, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley have a surprising chemistry, as they get to know each other on this odd little misadventure of theirs. Any road trip is going to yield colorful characters along the way, but consider a road trip three weeks before the end of the world. Regular people are throwing their senses of order and decency out the window. They offer their young children booze at parties. They have orgies with the staff of a T.G.I. Friday's-like restaurant where the shtick of the staff is to be super friendly, only now they've cranked the shtick into high gear. They're so friendly, the might just fuck you right at the table! That doesn't happen here, but you get the sense that if Dodge and Penny decided to stay inside the restaurant, it very well could have.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is engaging, and funny at times, even with its persistent undercurrent of melancholy -- but I'm not sure what need there was for it. Especially when other movies have done better with the concept. There's something about this movie that feels a bit like it's on a bandwagon, what with the recent rash of end-of-the-world movies, from a wide range of genres. (This one seems to be more in the romance category.)

Honestly, the acting is better than the script deserves. You do care about these characters, thanks to the performances. I found the ending, where the world reaches its inevitable conclusion, fairly touching. Sure, everybody dies, but the characters get there in a way that is oddly comforting. That's about the only point where this movie gets close to setting itself apart, though. Up until then, it's just a road trip populated by people with unrealistic behaviors. But, well, at least in general they're interesting.

Keira Knightley and Steve Carell are SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD.

Overall: B-
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