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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

What She said:

She

It’s the not-too-distant future and the end of the world is upon us.  It’s coming in the shape of a large asteroid sure to wipeout mankind.  Of course, humans tried to stop the monster rock, but unfortunately their last ditch effort has just failed.  The end is in sight, in fact it’s only a few weeks away. 

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World introduces us with this as background.  We become acquainted with Dodge, a 40-something year old guy whose wife literally ran off when she found out that the world was ending.  Dodge clearly has no idea what to do next.  At first, he tries to keep up with the norm, heading to work and even being offered a promotion.  “Who wants to be CFO?” his boss asks as he looks around a room sparsely populated by Dodge and the handful of coworkers who have not yet resigned to live out their final days in unemployment.  Dodge’s friends sink into the same frenzy as much of the rest of the population—indulging in hardcore drugs, sexual exploits, and drinking 24/7.  Basically, they’re living without rules…living as if they’re dying.  But that’s not Dodge’s way.  Instead he’s drifting day to day, sedating his nerves with prescription cough syrup, and still not coping well.  He seems eerily calm. 

Enter Dodge’s somewhat happy-go-lucky British neighbor Penny.  She’s just broken up with her good for nothing live-in boyfriend and is devastated that she’s missed the last flight out of New York and will not get to visit her family before the end.  Penny’s optimistic attitude and spirited ways seem to breathe new life into Dodge.  He becomes inspired to pursue a long-lost love from high school, committed to reuniting with her in the nick of time.  Penny agrees to help Dodge find his love if he will help her get to a private plane so she can go home.  Their road trip turns into a journey of the heart for both.

Steve Carell plays Dodge and Kiera Knightley is Penny.  The two actually have a pretty good on-screen dynamic, particularly in the earlier portions of the movie.  Penny’s rambunctiousness makes Dodge uncomfortable, but you can tell that he grows to admire her for her quirks.  One of the more fascinating things about this movie is how it balances humor with drama and introspective thought.  There’s a lot that has to do with human nature and how we will react to the imminent doom of the world.  Some of it is funny—some people going wild, others in absolute denial—and other aspects are somewhat sobering—rioting, arson, and yes, the magnitude of denial from some.  As Dodge and Penny’s friendship grows they begin to offer each other what they’re really in need of.  Dodge finally comes to terms with his past, and Penny receives the unconditional care and support she craves. 

My only real complaint with this movie comes with its ending.  I’d say the last 20-25 minutes are its weakest moments.  The film goes in a direction that I didn’t feel was necessary, and that I thought diluted what had been an already strong and meaningful relationship between Dodge and Penny.  Too forced, too last minute, and too contrived.  But overall, I enjoyed this movie for what it offered.  It was painless and made me think a little.

Thumbs mostly up.

What he said:

He

It’s the end of the world. Literally. Humanity has known for a little while that a meteor was headed towards Earth, but the shit really hits the fan when the last attempt to destroy it has failed. At this point, everyone just throws in the towel and does whatever the feel like it. Upon hearing the news Dodge’s wife (Steve Carell) leaves him. He tries to seek comfort in friends, who are throwing an anything goes because the world is about to end party, but that’s just not his style. While everyone else is engaging in all kinds of debauchery – if not flat out dangerous – behavior, Dodge is mopey.

One night he bumps into a young woman. Well she kind of bumps into him. She’s on his fire escape crying her eyes out after realizing she’ll never see her family again (she is originally from England). Her name is Penny (Keira Knightley) and she lives in an apartment down the hall. Dodge lets her in and comforts her. He eventually walks her back to her apartment, and finds out that not only has the mailman been delivering the mail to Penny’s mailbox, but she has been a little lax about getting it to him. So one day while sorting through mail that mostly doesn’t matter anymore, he comes across a letter from his high school sweetheart Olivia. She confesses that he was the love of her life and she is saddened they never end up together.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

One night, while sitting around, Dodge notices that people have begun rioting. His apartment is unsafe and he gets the idea to head off on an adventure to find Oliva. He wants to be with his true love when he dies. He doesn’t want to leave Penny to the rioters, so he heads to her apartment to bring her along. She agrees to go when he says he knows a man with a private plane who can get her home to her family. This begins their adventure. It’s filled with some funny, random little moments, such as a stop as a restaurant that resembles a Friendly’s. Let’s just say they are taking the end of the world pretty well. Their journey also involves some sad moments as they see the uglier side of human nature, as they panic, riot, and generally do all kinds of things people would if nobody cared about society’s rules anymore. The movie is filled with both hope for and depressing reality about our species.

Steve Carell got famous for appearances in goofball comedies like Bruce Almighty, Anchorman, and The 40-Year Old Virgin.  We all know the guy is funny, but he’s also shown some depth in movies like this one, Dan in Real Life, and Little Miss Sunshine. He’s really good at playing a normal guy, and as we know people can be awkward, funny, kind, insecure, etc. We’re complex little creatures and he portrays the those range of emotions well, all while still managing to be pretty darn funny. He’s always funny, but his funny in this is different from his funny in something like Anchorman.

The chemistry with Keira Knightley was good and the movie would not have worked without it. A movie that spends all of its time focusing on the same two people, it better be good or the movie won’t work.

The ending of the movie might make you think. Are you an optimist, pessimist, or a realist? Good little movie that makes you think.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on December 2, 2012.