June 26, 2012

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

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an odd movie. It kind of snuck into theaters under cover of darkness. It is a movie that has not had much of a promotional campaign and after seeing the movie , I can sort of understand why. This may be a rather straightforward and simple movie, but it is also odd, quirky, and strange. It is not a movie that lends itself to easy marketability and, quite frankly, I am kind of surprised it got a wide release right off the bat. It strikes me as the sort of movie to get a limited release to test the waters before going wide.

Hopefully you have heard of the movie. Better yet, I hope that you have the opportunity to see the movie. I went in not quite sure what to expect. I knew I liked Steve Carell and feel he is a good actor with some surprising versatility, but the movie itself seemed something of an anomaly.

The story begins by announcing that a 70-mile wide meteor is on a collision course with Earth. It will strike the planet in three weeks time and cause an extinction level event. The movie examines what happens when you have that knowledge. What would you do? I have no idea what I would do, it is a pretty terrifying proposition. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World takes a look at this through the eyes of mild mannered insurance salesman Dodge (Carell).

As the news of impending doom is heard over their car radio' Dodge sits in quiet disbelief Ashli's wife gets out of the car and runs off into the park, never to be seen again. A couple of very different reactions. We then follow Dodge as he continues to go to work. It seems like a fruitless activity, and he ultimately sees the futility in selling life insurance and moves onto other pursuits.

The fist part of the movie shows people indulging in all the things they couldn't before. Knowing the world is going to end sort of changes your priorities. People are engaging in orgies, having even more meaningless sex (as Patton Oswalt, in a cameo role, saying it evens the playing field for guys like him), illicit drugs (we got some heroin! Who wants to go first?), not to mention rioting and looting. It comes to a head when Dodge's friends try to set him up for the last three weeks. Dodge has none of it.

With the initial zaniness of complete and wanton freedom out of the way, the story settles down. Focus is placed on Dodge's newfound desire to find the one that got away, and Penny (Keira Knightley) who laments missing the last flight home to her family and suffering from a recent breakup.

It reveals itself to be something of a road movie where the two characters learn about each other and themselves. This is also about the characters they meet along the way. Everyone deals with the with the news differently and each one brings their perspective to the mix. Some wish to exit early, others just want to party, still others just want to be with their loved ones. All of this leads to Dodge and Penny discovering what it is that they really want in life.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a movie that is all about sentimentality without ever being overtaken by it. It uses the plot device of impending doom as a way to force our characters to put their lives into perspective. The resulting tale is a sweet one. It is one that works because of the underlying truth an honesty represented by the characters. It may seem like a comedy, but it is more about the drama.

It worked on an emotional level that actually affected me. This is a surprisingly touching movie that achieves something special in is simplicity. It just goes to show that great doesn't mean complex. At its most basic level this is a story of boy meets girl, the kicker is it happens during the realization that there is no future, that everything is going to end regardless of what they would prefer.

Hopes and dreams may be dashed as the world ends, but it doesn't mean you have to do it alone. Everything is put into perspective and the movie is all the more watchable for it. It benefits from solid performances from both Carell and Knightley, each taking different routes into the story and each given enough time to create characters to care about.

The movie was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist). The first time director seems to be a little unsteady as some of he sequences don't work perfectly, but it hardly hurts the movie, it just shows there is room for improvement and a wonder what could have happened with a more experienced director. Still, it is a restrained film and it is better for it. I liked the reflective mood created.

It may not be easily marketed, but it is a worthy film. It is simple, different, and eminently enjoyable.

Highly Recommended.


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