MPAA Rating: R
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Film Pulse Score: 4.5/10
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is yet another end of the world film centering on two characters and how they deal with their respective feelings in light of the impending apocalypse. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria (Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist), Seeking a Friend… chooses the path of a telling the story of the entire world being completely and utterly destroyed with a slightly humorous touch. I say slightly because at a certain point in Seeking a Friend… Scafaria decides that the comedic apocalyptic film is over and thus starts a sap-fest of a romantic drama, devoid of all humor.
The film starts with Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife, Linda (Nancy Carell) listening intently to the car radio’s breaking news that the team of astronauts in charge of destroying the asteroid, Matilda, which is set to destroy Earth within a couple of weeks, has failed. Immediately following the news, Linda decides that this is the last and best chance to leave Dodge and does so by running as fast as she can leaving Dodge alone with the sounds of classic rock on the radio.
What follows is exactly what one would expect, judging from the trailer – Dodge makes a half-hearted effort to continue his day-to-day activities as society quickly falls apart around him. Within a few days, he begins to grasp the futility of his attempts, and subsequently abandons his job, like many of those before him. Dodge attends an end-of-the-world party, where his friend’s wife, Diane (Connie Britton) tries to set him up with a “suitable” woman, played by the ever enjoyable Melanie Lynskey. Warren, portrayed irreverently (of course) by Rob Corddry, is, perhaps, one of the more stand-out characters of the film, for dubious, yet enjoyable, reasons, while Patton Oswalt makes a brief, hilarious appearance as Roache. Dodge is uncomfortable at the party, however, and leaves through a window, leaving everyone to their raucous apocalyptic debauchery.
Upon returning home, he becomes nostalgic, and while he is rummaging through a box of mementos, a young woman appears on the fire escape outside his window, crying and obviously distressed. Dodge invites her in, under the condition that “she won’t steal anything if he won’t rape her,” and we find that she is Penny (Keira Knightley), a neighbor from downstairs who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Penny is distraught over the prospect of never seeing her family again, after having missed the last flight to England. When Dodge walks Penny back to her apartment the next afternoon, he finds out that Penny has about three years worth of Dodge’s mail. While picking through the pile, he comes across a letter from his high-school sweetheart Olivia, who he believes was “the One”.
A fast approaching riot kick starts Dodge and Penny’s relationship, forcing the two of them to escape their apartments. They make a deal with one another, if Penny can take him to find Olivia, Dodge will, in return, take her to someone he knows that owns a plane providing Penny with means to make it back to her family. The rest of the film is spent following Dodge and Penny on their quest to find Dodge’s high-school sweetheart, Olivia. The only problem is Penny starts to fall for Dodge and, of course, Dodge starts to fall in love with Penny, the apocalypse has that sort-of effect on people.
During the process of Penny and Dodge searching for Olivia, the main thing that is lost is the comedy, except for a brief stop at Friendsey’s where T.J. Miller provides some much-needed humor. It seems as though Scafaria didn’t want humor to get involved with the whole, Penny and Dodge realizing that they are perfect for each other and should be spending their lives, all 7 to 12 days of it, together storyline. The film seems to be broken into two parts – the first half being, the humorous things people do before the entire world is destroyed and the second half being, the semi-romantic tale of two people falling in love over the course of a couple of days before the entire world is destroyed.
Seeking a Friend… has some dark comedic moments at the beginning and touches upon topics that felt like they should have been developed more, such as the futility of our daily activities with an imminent apocalypse and how fast people turn to debauchery and otherwise socially unacceptable behavior during their looming demise. If Seeking a Friend for the End of the World would have added some comedic touches throughout the film, especially the second half, we would be dealing with a much stronger film. Instead, Scafaria choose to abandon comedy for the sake of a romantic plotline filled to the brim with sappiness and cheesiness, to which I think the Apocalypse deserves much more.