Boning Keira Knightley would probably be on my list of things to do if the world was going to end in three weeks.
Set in a too-near future, a man searches for a meaningful connection as humanity’s last days are at hand. Can he find his greatest love at the worst possible time? As the respective journeys of Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) converge, the two spark to each other and their outlooks – if not the world’s – brighten.
I really do like this idea. What would you do, if you knew you only had 21 days to live? Would you have endless sex? Get drunk all of the time? Commit suicide? Party it up like no other? Tell off people you have always wanted to tell off? Rekindle with an old flame? Find love one last time? Or just sit there and go on through your day, as if nothing happened? Honestly, I don’t know what I would do except maybe watching all of my favorite movies one last time. This won’t be one of them.
This is the debut from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, and it’s a pretty good one, too considering she is the chick he wrote Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, a movie that made me want to kill all NYC indie bands in existence. That’s why I’m afraid to go to New York, because I know that if I do step somewhere in that city and I hear an indie band, murder will happen. OK, that’s actually not the reason but you get the drift, I didn’t like that movie but I like this one and I think that’s because Scafaria starts this movie out pretty well with a lot of humor.
There’s a lot of goofy stuff that happens in the first half, where we see how all of these people react to the apocalypse differently, like a bizarre-o restaurant called “Freindsies” that starts out with a happy birthday song, and then ends in an orgy that almost comes out of nowhere. Definitely think of that next time I go to Hooters for my b-day celebration. Then there’s also another scene where we see Penny and Dodge get picked up by some random dude, only to find out that he has hired a hitman to kill him. Pretty funny stuff altogether but underneath all of the humor, there lies a very sad darkness and eventually, it comes up from out of nowhere which was good for this film, but also bad.
What I did like about this total shift in tone was that Scafaria gives this trip between Penny and Dodge, some real development so that when these two eventually do “fall in love” it’s earned and feels like something that’s meant to happen, much like the end of the world. That’s another aspect of this movie that kept me going throughout, the fact that there was two ways this movie could have ended. It was a comedy after all, so there could have been a sucker-punch ending where Scafaria decided that the world wasn’t really going to end and all of these people have to live with the dumb mistakes they have already made. But then again, going with the actual doomsday coming around is more logical and it seems like at one point that Scafaria is going to go for it and totally wipe out the whole planet of Earth. I won’t give away what ending she does end up with, but it had me glued to the screen until the credits rolled.
However, as funny as this film could have been at times, the dramatic stuff does come on a little too strong, giving the film an uneven tone. The first half, as I have already mentioned, is pretty damn funny with a whole bunch of wacky situations to how people would act when the end of their days is coming up. But once the film starts to unravel and the idea that everybody will actually die starts to set in, things start to get more and more melancholy and sad. Honestly, I get that you can’t have a film about the nearing apocalypse and have it be funny the whole way through, but this shit ends up getting depressing. Really, the last hour or so barely had any laughs whatsoever and even though before that, it wasn’t the funniest thing known to man, it still put a smile on my face and made me happy. Really, you couldn’t have done this film any differently with it’s tone than Scafaria already did, but it feels like Funny People, where it’s like two different films stuck together. Some of this stuff was touching though, so I can’t be too harsh on it.
Actually, the main reason this flick was so touching was because of the odd pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. These two actually make a good romantic couple together, even though the age difference between them is a big turn-off for most people, myself included, but I guess that’s the point of them and why they’re together. These two would have never hung-out if the world was still the same, but because of this coincidental circumstance, they end up being the only person they’d much rather spend their last few days alive with.
Carell is doing that sad-sack character again here, but still works well especially when he has to play a character that is still so sad from the fact that his wife and everything else he knows, has left him. Whereas Knightley is playing a lively and full-of-life character, but still shows that she has some sad emotions to her as well. Knightley is great in this role and shows that she actually has some comedic chops to her as well, but it’s the fact that we are able to care for her character as much as Carell’s is and that’s where I think the real beauty of this film lies. The pairing of these two may be odd, but it’s also somewhat inspired and shows that if you have an inspired premise, inspired writing, and inspired characters, then it all can work out in the end. That is…until the world blows up. Then, that’s when things don’t work out.
Consensus: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is funny, tender, well-acted by its leads, and has its heart in the right place, but also features a big tonal shift about halfway through that makes it feel like two different movies, wrapped up into one, big apocalyptic nightmare.