Jan 19, 2015

Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Apocalyptic movies are usually big blockbuster-type affairs with loads of CGI which is what made Seeking a Friend for the End of the World so interesting to me. It's a simple romance/drama film that just happens to take place before the apocalypse. With Steve Carell who's easily proven that he can handle more dramatic roles and Keira Knightley on board, I honestly thought there would be a market for an apocalyptic date movie in the summer of 2012 with two fine actors.

Good thing I'm not a studio executive because SaFftEotW was a soft flop. It didn't cost a whole lot to make, but it didn't quite make back its budget either. I remember actually suggesting it to my girlfriend who was stuck trying to make a decision over what we would go see next in theatres, but she didn't bite for whatever reason. I wonder why? Like me, studio executives are probably wondering too.

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Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Produced by: Steve Golin, Joy Gorman, Steven M. Rales, etc.
Written by: Lorene Scafaria
Music by: Jonathan Sadoff, Rob Simonsen
Running time: 101 minutes
Production company: Focus Features, Mandate Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, etc.
Distributed by: Focus Features, E1 Films Canada, StudioCanal, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $10,000,000
Box office: $9,636,289 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, William Petersen, Melanie Lynskey, Adam Brody, Tonita Castro, Mark Moses, Derek Luke, Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel

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Synopsis


An asteroid is on a crash course with the planet Earth and only three weeks remain before it hits. Dodge Petersen (Steve Carell) doesn't know how to respond to this, prompting his wife Lina (Nancy Carell) to abandon him. Dodge continues to go to work despite the fact that there's pretty much no point in doing so and can't help but think about what things could've been like if he had stayed with his first real love, Olivia. After attending a meaningless party, he meets Penny Lockhart (Keira Knightley) crying on the fire escape outside of his window and becomes fast friends with her. They both have somewhere to be before the world ends and they decide to leave together.

Review


The beginning of the movie introduces us to what the world is like as the inevitable end of humanity approaches. Some people party like there's no tomorrow, some riot and some still try hang onto the threads of their old lives the best they can. There are actually some pretty funny scenes during these first thirty odd minutes as well as some pretty dark moments as well. Very unexpectedly dark actually. (Spoilers) There's an actual scene where Dodge attempts to commit suicide with some window cleaner if you can believe it. (End Spoilers)

Steve Carell plays a pretty dry character who's hiding some deep-seeded pain from being abandoned by his wife. Really, he's nothing more than a boring insurance salesman but we get to know more of him later on as the story develops. He talks about how he used to dream of being something cool like a fireman, but buckled down when it came time to getting a career which gives a gentle "do what makes you happy in life" message with the end of the world being here and all. It's not really something that's explored very deeply though.

Keira Knightley on the other hand plays a quirkly, fun-loving, vinyl worshiping deep sleeper. To be honest, Penny isn't a very interesting character despite the many attempts to make her so. Knightley does a good enough job at playing Penny and getting through her more dramatic scenes, but she's just not a character to be taken all that seriously. She's the kind of character that only exists in a Hollywood bubble.

Despite Dodge going to try and find his lost love, you know that there's going to be something developing between him and Penny. Their bonding scenes together aren't bad, but I don't get the impression that Carell and Knightley have the best chemistry in the world. Things could be worse, but they could also be better.

What I do like about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World are some of the casting decisions for the secondary characters. Some notable/semi-notable actors make small appearances from time to time and my favourite would probably be William Petersen's role as the weird trucker who picks Dodge and Penny up after they get stranded. On the flip side, Adam Brody hams it up a bit too much for my liking.

One thing I just have to mention though is the blatant nature of the product placement in this film. What's with Dunkin' Donuts appearing on the t-shirt of Warren (Rob Corddry) for example? I doubt he works there with such a nice house and the ability to get expensive cigars. So is he just a big fan of the coffee and doughnut chain? Maybe, but c'mon. Speck (Derek Luke) the doomsday prepper has a whole fleet of Smart Fortwos which doesn't really seem like the best car to have in the apocalypse unless it's a gas concern. 

In the end, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is never as thoughtful, emotional or romantic as it could be. It's funny at times, but it's not something that lasts. It also doesn't help that the main female character is artificially unique, carefully crafted to get the male character out of his depression. Carell and Knightley give perfectly fine performances, but they're bogged down by what is a very ordinary movie despite the interesting setting. Where I will give full props though is for the ending.

Rating


6/10