Written by Pat Vis
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a film I knew almost nothing about when I went to see it. I knew the basic premise, but beyond that I went in blind. Having seen it now, I can say that Seeking a Friend is a moving drama, spliced with some great humor and excellent acting. Yes, at the core Seeking a Friend is a romance, but it contains enough drama and comedy, where that romance never felt overbearing or cheesy.
The plot of the movie does have the world ending, the title isn’t being cleaver. An asteroid is heading towards earth and Dodge (Steve Carell) is left by his wife, when they find out the news. Alone and depressed, he runs into Penny (Keira Knightley) and they quickly form a friendship in the face of the end of the world. The movie turns into a road trip film, with Penny wanting to get to her family in Britain and Dodge wanting to find his lost love. Knightley and Carell work well together and the romance between their characters never feels forced. We all know how it’s going to go down, but it is still entertaining ride to see it happen.
Seeking a Friend is bolstered by a great cast of supporting actors. Martin Sheen, William Peterson, and Adam Brody all appear. In particular, William Peterson and Martin Sheen have some of the better parts of this movie. Martin Sheen is always enjoyable to watch in a movie and he has always imbued the father role quite well. His scenes are touching and Carell is able to keep up with him in the dramatic department. Some of the bigger laughs in this movie, come from the situations they find themselves in during their road trip. At one point, they are pulled over by an overbearing police officer. Keira Knightley absolutely kills it in this scene and the outcome of what happens makes it even better.
One of the elements I loved about this movie, was the comedy pared with such a dark overtone. The world is going to end in three weeks. Everyone knows it. Yet, there are still life insurance policies to sell and the 24/7 news stations create their own intros and special apocalyptic countdowns. Writer/Director Lorene Scafaria makes a point of showing how useless so much of the stuff we do is, yet also shows how we cling to it despite the fact that it won’t matter in a couple weeks. Most of this humor occurs in the first act of the movie and it starts the film off on a good note. Seeking a Friend should also get points for the best of use of “Wouldn’t it be Nice” in a movie ever.
If anything, the third act of Seeking a Friend doesn’t quite hold up to the promise of the first two. It feels a bit more rush and with a couple exceptions, the scenes don’t quite hit the same plateau of comedy/drama that they do earlier in the movie. There is one plot hole or oversight that particularly annoyed me and if you know anything about how planes work, it’ll annoy you too. It must be difficult to figure out how to end a romance that takes place at the end of the world and I don’t envy trying to write out that last act. It’s not terrible, but more time could’ve been spent on some of the people in the third act.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World isn’t for everybody. Yes, there is comedy and yes it is funny. However, tonally this movie is dark. It’s about the end of the world and the people trying to find some meaning in their lives, in the face of impending extinction. The romance, drama, and comedy save this movie from being a wholly depressing experience and turn it into something you enjoy watching, despite what you know will be impending tragedy. It’s one of the bigger surprises I’ve had at a movie theatre in a long time.