I am sure the last thing to cross most people’s minds after finding out the world was coming to an end would be music, but for some people, grabbing an armful of records would be as important as grabbing family photos if you were forced to evacuate your home. The poster (and soundtrack cover) for Seeking a Friend of the End of the World shows the film’s leads, Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley), along with dog Sorry, standing in the face of an asteroid set to destroy earth. Dodge and Sorry look like you would expect, knowing a giant asteroid is heading towards you (pensive, scared), but Penny looks nearly hopeful as she clutches a stack of records. While music certainly will not save you from certain fate, it can certainly help pad the landing.
Music plays an important role throughout Seeking a Friend, from Penny and Owen (Adam Brody) arguing over who will get custody of which records when they break up to Penny grabbing that armful on her way out of the apartment (potentially for the last time) to the film’s final moments with Dodge laying on the floor, accepting his fate as he lets “The Air That I Breathe” by The Hollies wash over him. When the power officially goes out and the world is rendered dark and quiet, the effect is truly eerie and unsettling with only the sounds of the impending elements remaining. The power of music and the escape it provides is suddenly unquestionable and makes the idea of spending your last minutes with a stack of records seem less crazy.
The film kicks off with Dodge and his wife, Linda (Nancy Carell), sitting in their car, listening to the radio as they get the news that the last ditch effort to keep the asteroid from hitting earth has failed. This moment is both sad and terrifying, and after the announcement, The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” starts playing and sets the tone and feel of the film, one that is hauntingly honest with touches of ironic humor. There are certainly songs with titles and sounds you would expect like the melancholic “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” and “In The Time Of My Ruin” featured here, but they are also joined by upbeat tunes like Wang Chung’s “Dance Hall Days” giving Seeking a Friend its unique balance of reality and levity.
The main premise of the film finds Dodge and Penny on an impromptu road trip to get to the people they want to be with in their final days and as Dodge and Penny get to know one another better, Dodge asks her about her record collection. Penny explains that her favorites are the records with deep grooves which allow for the imperfections in the recording to shine through and let you hear something different each time you listen. While this allows for richer sound quality, it also makes the records heavier and more of a commitment to carry around. Later, when Dodge pulls out a record from Penny’s collection and examines the grooves, it not only calls back to their relationship, it also works as a metaphor for examining one’s own imperfections and accepting them as you prepare to face your final moments.
A collection of artists from INXS to The Walker Brothers to P.M. Dawn, the soundtrack is rounded off with a combination of two of the scored pieces from composers Rob Simonsen and Jonathan Sadoff, “Dodge Walks Home/The Beach,” that strips away lyrics and focuses on the various emotions explored in the film from slightly quirky to unsure to hopeful. While Carell delivers a stunning performance, the music plays an equally important role of driving and supporting the emotions on screen. One of the film’s final songs, “Stay With Me” by The Walker Brothers packs a powerful punch as the lyrics call out for someone to “remember, I’m asking you, begging you, oh, oh please, stay with me, baby, stay with me, baby” with the desperate refrain calling out over and over again as the song fades to inevitable an end. There is no easy way to accept that there will be no tomorrow, but with music like this, at least those last few minutes could be a bit more bearable.
From upbeat dance tunes to somber reflective pieces, what would you listen to if you were facing the end of the world? Which records would you grab on your way out the door for the last time?
This soundtrack is available through Lakeshore Records.
1. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” – The Beach Boys
2. “Devil Inside” – INXS
3. “Sex Tourists” – French Kicks
4. “In The Time Of My Ruin” – Frank Black
5. “Set Adrift On Memory Bliss (Radio Edit)” – P.M. Dawn
6. “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” – The Walker Brothers
7. “The Air That I Breathe” – The Hollies
8. “Dance Hall Days” – Wang Chung
9. “Ooh” – Scissor Sisters
10. “This Guy’s In Love With You” – Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass
11. “Stay With Me” – The Walker Brothers
12. “Dodge Walks Home/The Beach” – Rob Simonsen & Jonathan Sadoff