Published June 20, 2012
What would you do if there were only three weeks left in the world? Would you lose all your inhibitions? Rob a bank? Seek out your soul mate? Eat every bag of Skittles left in town?
In the unconventional and very funny “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” charismatic Steve Carell and Keira Knightley find an enchanting calm before the final storm.
This isn’t your typical apocalypse movie. There are no killer robots or zombies. The bleakness of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” is gone, replaced by the hopefulness and vitality of Carell and Knightley’s charming relationship. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is more a budding flower among the hordes of bleak and explosive sci-fi apocalyptic movies of late.
Writer Lorene Scafaria’s (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) directorial debut is a bold and clever romantic comedy. It’s an apocalypse movie, a road trip movie and a romantic comedy all in one. It’s offbeat and cynical to a degree; when crap happens we can’t do anything about, at least we all have each other. On the flip side its comedy is as black as asphalt; for example, with the impending destruction of the world, people are given uncomfortably hilarious options for checking out early, like hiring a personal assassin to pick you off at an undisclosed time.
Like Scafaria’s screenplay for “Nick and Norah,” "Seeking a Friend" is a journey film with a decent blend of comedy and drama. It takes the end of the world for strangers Dodge and Penny to find each other and once they do they embark on a road trip to tie off loose ends; Dodge seeks out his high school girlfriend while Penny is desperate to get to an airplane to return to her family in England. Along the way the two meet various groups of quirky characters that help Dodge and Penny open their eyes as well as their hearts.
Carell and Knightley make watching the end of the world so much fun. They are a pair one wouldn’t expect to fit together in a movie, but the two compliment each other well; Knightly with her sardonic wit and manic personality, and Carell with his dry and often morose demeanor.
Carell again displays his diversity and talent. He can handle emotion and drama just as well as being a goof. His strong hold of the material here grounds the film and adds layers of emotion to an already tight script.
Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry and Martin Sheen all give Scafaria’s script a welcome extra boost, fleshing out the world Dodge and Penny travel through.
Scafaria’s vision of the apocalypse is a vibrantly youthful and hopeful one. There are the obligatory mobs and looting which all these movies have, but the characters Scafaria chooses to show us are blithely contented people who have embraced one another while awaiting the end.
Each scene plays out like a cleverly crafted vignette that gives the film a freshness and propulsion often missing from the romantic comedy genre. It also doesn’t hurt to throw the looming apocalypse in there for good measure.
Also, it’s very refreshing to have a movie title longer than one word.