Who would you want to be with when the world ends? While we here at FSR have been bringing you the various movies you should watch before the world is set to end come this December, writer/director Lorene Scafaria takes on the idea of who you would want to stand with in those final moments. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World follows Dodge (Steve Carell), an insurance salesman (oh, the irony) who seems lost as the rest of the world is falling apart around him. One night, while watching the grim news (anchored with class by Mark Moses), Dodge encounters his quirky neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) and they bond over the unspoken need to have someone to spend time with, even if it means just sitting and watching television together.
When Penny gives Dodge a stack of his mail (which she’d been accidentally receiving for months), he finds a letter from an ex-girlfriend (one he considered the love of his life) which prompts Dodge to find her and spend his last days with his one true love. After a terrifying riot breaks out around their apartment building, Dodge grabs Prius-driving Penny to save her (and bum a ride.) Promising to bring her to one of his friends who has a plane (which could get her to England to see her family one last time), the duo (and Dodge’s inherited dog, Sorry) embark on a road trip to get to those people they realize are most important to them.
Billed as a comedy, Seeking a Friend is more than that. While the film certainly infuses some of its darker moments with humor, it does not shy away from the simple fact that the world is ending and people everywhere are facing the knowledge that their days are numbered. Carell takes on a man who on the surface seems sad (his wife left him, he sells insurance for the apocalypse), but as the film unfolds, we realize how many layers there are to Dodge, and Carell embodies each of those moments with enough heart to make us root for him at every turn. Knightely’s Penny starts off as flighty and irritating in her misguided optimism, but as we get to know her better and the true fate of the world starts to weigh down on her, she becomes a real character rather than a goofy caricature.
Beyond its two leads, Seeking a Friend is filled with fantastic side characters such as nothing-to-lose housewife Diane (Connie Britton) and her drunk, fireworks-lighting husband Warren (Rob Corddy), horny Roache (Patton Oswalt), desperate for a final connection Karen (Melanie Lynskey), Penny’s selfish ex Owen (Adam Brody), and (my personal favorite) the tripping on E, covered in glow sticks Friendzy’s host Darcy (TJ Miller) and his equally high (and friendly – ha!) co-worker, waitress Katie (Gillian Jacobs.) These characters are what give Seeking a Friend some of its greatest comedic relief and, while you probably would not want to spend your final days with any of them, they sure are fun to spend a few extra moments with on your way to that cosmic finish line.
Deciding who and what would be most important to you in the end is a question no one should have to ask themselves. Dodge put it best when he said, “It is not natural to know when your time is up.” The film certainly hits some bumps along the way as Dodge and Penny literally “dodge” hired assassins and their two conflicting personalities rub against each other, but the final scene is filled with enough emotion and reality to forgive some of the hiccups along the way.
The Upside: Scafaria takes on a daunting subject and fills the idea with colorful characters you can relate to, laugh at or feel for. Carell cements his status as a leading man in this one and his scenes with Frank (Martin Sheen) are some of the best in the film.
The Downside: While you would certainly face a myriad of emotions coming to terms with your demise, Scafaria seems to take that idea a bit too literally and the film’s various tonal shifts (from funny to serious to wacky to heartfelt) left Seeking‘s first half feeling a little too much like an uneasy roller coaster ride.
On the Side: It is rough to watch people face the end of the world, but it helps to do so while listening to fantastic music like Inxs, P.M. Dawn and Scissor Sisters making the Seeking a Friend soundtrack a must have for music fans.