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

Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Rob Corddry

Whether it can be attributed to an unavoidable, widespread epidemic or a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions, we’ve all been exposed to our fair share of doomsday scenarios, sans-zombies or the increasingly stale contrary. As insightful as some of these efforts have been in examining the existential crises that’d inevitably plague us as viable members of the human race, they’ve never really rung true in terms of both plausibility and heartfelt sincerity. Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, while tonally incompetent and frequently morbid, does just this despite the film’s penchant for exhibiting the amateurish qualities you’d expect of a directorial debut.

Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) have been long-time neighbors, unaware of each other’s existence until the countdown to the end of days is officially and unceremoniously announced. Prior to their embarking on an adventure filled with last-minute soul searching and (periodically) lighthearted companionship, Dodge remains the film’s central focal point as he exposes himself to others’ varying opinions on the value of life with the apocalypse staring them dead in the face. To its credit, Scafaria deftly blends some effective humor with equal parts glass half-full, glass half-empty ramblings pertaining to the significance of each character’s life choices given their aforementioned impending doom.

Despite a promising first act, the film devolves slightly into a run-of-the-mill buddy-laden road trip dramedy about two people bonding as they travel somewhat steadfastly toward their respective last-minute goals. Like I said, the film has a rather off-putting mean streak, inducing a hearty chuckle here and there before cramming something utterly disturbing down our throats. It’s easy enough to give Scafaria some bonus points for illustrating the harsher side of this unfortunate reality, but what this morose sensibility does instead is make the entire production suffer irreparably from a glaring identity crisis.

Cliches often plague Seeking a Friend’s latter act, ensuring us that predictability will be its demise until its agreeably soul-crushing conclusion bears its ugly teeth. This characteristic coupled with the fairly palpable chemistry that exists between Carell and Knightley are easily Scafaria’s debut’s strongest suits, even if it’s hard to simply overlook its noticeable flaws. While faltering a bit in being as well-rounded and enlightening as it could’ve been, I’ll gladly give points to the fledgling filmmakers for taking risks even seasoned veterans would be afraid to take for fear of public backlash. It’ll certainly garner its fair share of detractors, but for those looking for a mostly refreshing take on a tried-and-true doomsday movie formula, you could certainly do worse than Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

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