Keira Knightley, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller and Steve Carell
If the world was ending and I was looking for a friend and that friend turned out to be Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, I would put a gun in my mouth and pull the trigger. It’s a black comedy with a warm and fuzzy center which is a concept that doesn’t even make sense on paper. In practice, it’s cinematic torture. While it delivers a few dark laughs in the beginning and it pushes some of the right emotional buttons in the end, together the two halves add up to nothing but one of the most irritating movies of the year.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are two strangers who become unlikely friends and set out on a journey together following the news that soon an asteroid is going to destroy the earth. He’s looking for his long lost high school sweetheart and she’s looking to make it back to the loving arms of her family. Of course, they wind up finding each other instead. You see, it’s a journey of personal growth after all. The problem is, unless you believe in a life after this one (and there’s no indication from anyone in the film that they do), the end is a little late to be making lifestyle changes… because it’s the end. Of everything. From the opening minutes of the film when we find out the end is coming, the dramatic potential of the story is zero because nothing matters anymore.
In the episodic series of adventures that follow, the screenplay does somersaults trying to manufacture drama where there isn’t any, but it never comes off believably. There isn’t a single moment in the film until the very end that feels honest or real. People behave in ways that suit the screenplay but don’t fit any recognizable pattern of real behavior. When the story needs an obstacle to make getting from A to B more interesting, there is rioting in the streets. Once B is reached safely, the rioting never happened. When the story decides it needs some half-hearted satirical jabs, the characters run across a group of people who’ve carved out their insane idea of paradise at a TGI Fridays-like restaurant. When that’s done, the story finds another ridiculous obstacle to throw in the characters’ path.
Along the way, we’re supposed to believe that Carell and Knightley fall in love but they have zero chemistry together. For the whole film, Carell does his sad lost puppy routine which got old about 15 minutes into 40-Year-Old Virgin. His character is named Dodge, because that’s what he’s done his whole life. Get it? Knightley has some good comic energy as Penny, the pretty, random, flaky one, but there’s no reason she’d wind up with Dodge except that the script dictates they’re going in the same direction and then he’s within cuddling distance when the end finally and mercifully comes.
In the brilliant end-of-the-world black comedy Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick gazes into the abyss and comes away with the horrifying realization that human beings are never going to change… and it’s hilarious. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World peers over the same cliff, but comes back with the trite observation that we all just want to be loved. Yes, it’s just as appalling as it sounds.
Filed under: Review