Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Stars: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Derek Luke

Rated R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence, 101 minutes, Comedy/Drama/Romance

Compare to: Garden State (2004), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (2008)

Normally, I’d consider Friday night a little too late to do a review but hey, I’ve only got two eyes and they can only focus on so many things at a time.

Seeking a Friend at the End of the World isn’t bad. That is, if you’re into the whole ‘quirky Indie comedy’ thing. You know what I’m talking about. The main character is introspective, quiet, hasn’t lived life to the fullest (yet), and needs to open up maybe just a little more. They’re weird, but mostly because the norm in these movies is to be self-absorbed, loud, and materialistic. Though once they find their also quirky, yet extroverted counterpart, all can be set right in the world. This is a format many movies take, this one just happens to have a comet hurtling toward the Earth at the same time. So I was serious when I said it’s good if you’re into that.

Dodge and the rest of the world just found out that a meteor is about collide with our lovely planet. All emergency missions to save us have failed as the radio announcer tells us at the beginning, right before Dodge’s wife leaves him. There are three weeks of earth left and everybody’s trying to figure out how to spend them. Enter Penny, Dodge’s neighbor he barely knows. She wants to see her family while Dodge wants to find his high school sweetheart that recently sent him a love letter. So together the two embark on a road trip to see the sights that earth has to offer just three weeks before it’s all over.

While I do want you to keep reading, I’ve just summed up everything I could say about this movie in the first paragraph. The movie does have its strong points, though they eventually become the weak points. There’s humor to be found in the first thirty minutes or so, the idea of people knowing that they’re death is imminent and still doing the same things anyway; going to work, mowing the lawn, watching TV… while you also have people crying their eyes out, committing suicide, and partying like there’s no tomorrow; and in three weeks, there won’t be. Some things that normally wouldn’t be funny, but under the circumstance, become a little more humorous (At a party: “Dodge, you don’t HAVE to do heroin if you don’t want to.”) Things that would normally be a bigger deal become trivial while things that didn’t matter before have all the meaning in the world. All highly intriguing ideas and fun to watch for a bit.

Steve Carell does a great job as he always does. Never one to give someone too much credit, Carell always seems to take everything he does in stride. He plays an idiot extremely well, while his quiet, reflective characters always have a real-world quality to them; something many actors in this role tend to come off in a more condescending way. Speaking of condescending, these movies often seem to have that sort of an outlook on our fellow man to begin with. As mentioned above, everyone else’s priority’s are on some less-than-admirable while the protagonist solely focuses on bettering themselves, finding their place in the world. Many watch with the idea that they are this character; the one that just sees everything for the way it is. The free spirit they eventually team-up with is the only outgoing person that isn’t all about themselves while at the same time, speaking of what they think love is, finding the right one, etc., etc… The free spirit here is Keira Knightley and she plays it about as well as the script would allow. Speaking solely of the characters, there’s not too much to work with here.

The film does raise interesting questions about how to spend your last days. No means of transportation aside from what gas is left in your car, no way to fly, no phones, how would you spend it? I would think with loved ones but in writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s world, this is a chance to leave your loved ones, because there’s something more fun to do in the three weeks you have left. Most people in the film are obsessed with continuing their daily activities while others only want to riot and destroy. Two extremes that if this movie had to side with, it would need to be mowing the lawn. Not bad, but slow. It never seems to go much further than the occasional out-of-the-ordinary experience, and then conversation for about ten minutes about what they did when they were kids. I wasn’t expecting this to resemble Armageddon (1998) in any way, nor did I want it to. I just wish more than retrospection and regret (all in the name of love) would have taken place.

Grade: C-

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