Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World is, in case you thought they were kidding, about the Apocalypse happening in three weeks time.
A huge asteroid is on course to hit the earth. Upon hearing the news of their impending doom, Dodge’s (Steve Carell) wife leaves him, leaving him to question his life, and mend his broken heart.
Struggling to see the point of continuing his career selling life insurance and assessing the irony of everything he used to deem important, Dodge is at a loss whilst his friends indulge themselves in end-of-world parties and care-free orgies.
After a bungled suicide attempt, Dodge decides he would rather be left alone. However, after a chance encounter with his neighbour, a fairly neurotic and definitely narcoleptic young woman named Penny (Keira Knightley), he changes his mind and instead focuses his intentions on tracking down an old high school sweetheart whom he hasn’t seen for years. As events around them become more chaotic, Dodge convinces Penny to join him as they embark on a road trip to track down his long-lost love before it is too late.
Seeking a Friend is very much a comedy doused in tragedy, an examination of human nature highlighting the strange and diverse ways people react to the news that they don’t have much time left. Much of the humour is subtle, taking every opportunity to poke fun at the trivial things we currently hold in such high esteem. That we generally place value on things that really do not matter when faced with the sudden prospect of death is a major theme, just one of many observations director Lorene Scafaria wants us as an audience to consider.
Scafaria previously wrote the screenplay to Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist which if you’ve seen it, will explain why this movie is about finding love on an impromptu road trip but also accounts for the amazing soundtrack.
Seeking A Friend features a number of classics from the Beach Boys, Walker Brothers, INXS, The Hollies and even PM Dawn (yes, I know. I couldn’t believe it either. Google it if you weren’t alive in 1991) all of which tug at the heartstrings, on more than one occasion reducing this reviewer to tears.
I know, I cried, I can admit it. As much as scenes involving contract killers, a dog named Sorry, an over enthusiastic cleaner and the friendliest TGI Fridays on the planet made me giggle, the film has some very poignant and quite sad moments. The dark undertones of what is happening are never too far from the laughs.
The film very cleverly keeps you guessing as to whether or not the threat of destruction is real but in the same breath this is very much an anti last-minute-attempt-to-save-the-world movie. There are no heroics, no government plans, no Aerosmith soundtrack.
Carell is perfect in a role that could have been written exclusively for him, delivering the melancholy of the situation with such self-deprecation and resignation that only a top comic performer could achieve. With such brilliant dialogue he nails every dead-pan one-liner as a man who has lost everything and realises that soon it won’t even matter.
British audiences may not warm to Knightley’s character as much: Penny is a needy, clumsy, well-spoken Londoner who at least initially can come across a little irritating compared to Dodge’s patience and good nature. But in my opinion she carried the second half of the film, showing a lot of heart and lending more emotion to the role a lesser actress couldn’t have brought.
The film poses as many questions of its audience as it does its protagonists. The first half is a showcase of “what would you do?” played out through the many strange encounters that Dodge and Penny have on their quest. The second half is definitely a question of “who with?” and as the end draws closer, the uneasy answers provided are what make this an intelligent comedy as well as a successful love story.
Cameos from William Peterson (Grisham of CSI!), Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, the ever hilarious Rob Corddry, Connie Britton, Mark Moses, Melanie Lynskey and one very special appearance all contribute to a journey that is surreal, hilarious, sad and soulful.
Any film that is brave enough to make you assess your own path in life, a comedy no less, has to be worth making time for.
Seeking a Friend For The End Of The World is out on 13th July