Today: April 17, 2024
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Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World

We have all the time in the world.

We have all the time in the world.

What would you do
if the world was ending in three weeks?
Start a riot? Have an
orgy? Maybe take Class-A drugs in
front of your kids, safe in the knowledge they’re never going to grow up to
hold it against you? Or would you
try and spend it with a loved one?
Seeking A Friend For The End Of
The World
tries to address this slightly irksome quandary and in doing so
paints a picture of the apocalypse which, while overly sentimental, is always
warm and endearing.

Earth has just
been given the news that the space shuttle Deliverance (as in ‘from Evil’
rather than ‘squeal piggy’) has failed in its attempt to destroy a huge meteor
called Matilda due to hit the Earth in three weeks and wipe us all out. Dodge (Steve Carell) is having something of a mid-life crisis; his wife’s
just run off, the end of the world is just the icing on the cake. Then his slightly scatty neighbour
Penny (Keira Knightley) gives him a
long over-due letter from his high school sweetheart. As rioters close in and with Penny distraught she’ll never
get to see her family again, the two set out on the road to find ‘the one that
got away.’ Along the way they’ll
encounter all manner of people dealing with the imminent Armageddon in their
own unique ways.

Writer-director Lorene Scafaria has a habit of taking a
serious idea and putting her own fun, quirky spin on it. Her last film, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, was essentially a re-treading
of mumblecore drama In Search Of A
Midnight Kiss
. With Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World she puts her
trademark kooky, hipster spin on Lars
von Trier
‘s Melancholia.

Ignore much of
what you see in the trailer, all that guff is fairly fleeting and arguably the
weakest parts of the film. Seeking
A Friend For The End Of The world is by no means perfect but it certainly isn’t
going to herald the Four Horseman.
So for anyone who sat through Melancholia and wanted to slit their
wrists this is a decidedly more upbeat and fun way to watch the world explode,
or implode, depending on your perspective.

On their road
trip, Dodge and Penny predictably encounter all manner of whacky folk and, to
make it all the more entertaining for us, they’re all played by recognisable
faces. So William Peterson, him off of CSI,
turns up as a suicidal truck driver, Gillian
Jacobs
, her off of Community, is
a TGI Friday-like employee who might have drunk a little too much Kool-Aid and
even Martin Sheen, him off of The West Wing, rocks up to make you
wish he was your dad. Again.

It seems that
while the world is ending most people are determined to go out with a bang,
loving the ones they’re with as opposed to trying to find that all-important
emotional connection before it’s too late. Dodge and Penny however, are trying to find something
they’ve lacked up until this point; someone they can truly invest in. It’s a sweet idea and for the most part
you buy into their cute, blossoming relationship.

Cute being the
operative word for Seeking A Friend For The End Of The world. In fact, it’s almost too cute for it’s
own good. There are plenty of
‘ahhh’ moments and a cute little dog (after all, what’s a disaster movie
without a cute dog?) but for much of the running time you do wonder where all
the mass hysteria of the imminent End of Days is. While the tone of the film sometimes can’t decide whether it
wants to be funny or heartfelt it never loses its soft centre. When it’s trying to be funny it
falters. The scene in Friendlies,
the American equivalent of TGI Fridays, feels overly bawdy and farcical. Thankfully Scafaria’s always ironic
dialogue makes you smile without ever really feeling the need to laugh.

The pairing of
Carell and Knightley works surprisingly well. Carell rarely breaks from his now trademark sad-sack persona
but he’s always watchable and his delivery is wonderfully dry. Knightley meanwhile proves to have
something of a comedic talent. Her
ditzy portrayal of Penny is not going to convert any haters to her camp and,
while she pulls it off, you do wonder if she’s been miscast. You can’t help but wonder if the part
was originally intended for someone less refined, someone more adept at kooky? In the emotional moments Knightley is
solid but when she’s asked to go doe-eyed and point to the sky you wonder if Emma Stone or Zooey Deschanel might have been the better choice. However, there’s no denying that when
together Carell and Knightley make a surprisingly melting couple.

At times a little
too fluffy for its own good, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is
nonetheless a fun and forgettable little jaunt. If the end of world is this warm and fuzzy then the
glass-is-half-full people will be very happy. The half-empty-folks might be better swallowing a bottle of
bleach before it all kicks off though.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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