It’s 2012, the famed year of the Earth’s supposed demise is apparently also the year we come close to a real zombie outbreak. Exploring themes in art that depict or reference the end of the world are as old as the world itself but that doesn’t mean everyone has to stop referencing it. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, is similar in plot to every other relationship film set amongst the backdrop of our impending doom, but still finds a way to charm the pants off its audience. It’s not the raucous comedy the trailers make it out to be, but that’s a good thing.
After the news hits that the Government’s plan to break up the massive asteroid that’s tumbling towards earth has failed, Dodge Petersen’s (everyman, Steve Carell) wife basically runs away from her husband, leaving him in every meaning of the term. With 21 days left till impact and the only person he considered close to him running off, Dodge does the only thing he knows, and goes to work like it was any other day. As the end nears, the rocky relationship of Dodge’s downstairs neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley) also dissolves.
Having never met until now, Dodge and Penny find themselves on common ground. Though when Dodge finds out most of his mail was delivered to Penny’s apartment for the past three years (where she has just been stockpiling it), his life (what little is left of it) takes on new meaning. In the mess of bills and catalogs was a letter from the girl Dodge let get away, in which she confesses her love for him. Penny, feeling she is responsible for ruining Dodge’s life, swears to help him find his long lost love, as they hit the road while meeting a strange array of people along the way.
Just like Abel Ferrara’s recent, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is strikingly similar to the classic Don McKellar film of the 90s, Last Night. It’s easy to say they all just share a theme, but this film is all too much like Last Night in more ways than one. This doesn’t make it a bad film, in fact, it’s the one thing holding me back from calling Seeking a Friend for the End of the World one of the best films of the year, thus far. 4:44 Last Day on Earth took a darker view of the subject, Last Night walked the line, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World walks a similar line, but contains more characters that seem to accept what is happening, no matter what their journey entails.
Once more, like Last Night, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a film about the importance of maintaining relationships, no matter what rocky roads they cross. Where this film begins to separate itself is in the fine details. This experience is much more about the idea of being proactive for your own well-being, instead of hoping things just fall into place. No one should wait for the end of the world for this idea to take effect on their life, but it’s the way writer/director Lorene Scafaria decided to convey the message that is successful.
Over everything though, the one thing Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has in spades over other films of its kind, is Steve Carell. Keira Knightley certainly brings a refreshing nature to a well known character type, but Steve Carell once again proves what a treasure he is. He’s able to portray similar character archetypes again and again, while bringing something new to each performance. Like Bill Murray or Jim Carrey, he’s able to break through the most cynically stoic aspects of anyone’s heart with a simple look.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the type of film that inexplicably makes you love it. As much as I wanted to just complain that it was just a rip off of Last Night, I couldn’t do it. Whether it was Carell or the more than helpful staff at Friendys, something about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is just plain lovable.
Rating: 3 and a half out of 5 ‘Staches