Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is easily the biggest surprise of the year so far. It’s funny, smart, dramatic, and thought provoking. End of the world movies have been done to death; I’ve actually gotten tired of them myself. Not one good one has come out recently; at least, I can’t remember any. If you can’t remember them after a while, then it probably wasn’t all that great. When done right, the end of the world scenario can be such a great topic to delve into. Life is such a wonderful and fragile thing (Garden State, Revolutionary Road, and others have dealt with this subject as well). The movie definitely goes deep and has many themes. One of my favorite quotes is relevant here – “ Dream as if you’ll live forever, life as if you’ll die today.”
The world is going to end. A 70-mile wide asteroid, known as “Matilda,” is headed on a course collision towards earth – the team of astronauts failed their mission (can’t help but think of Armageddon with a different ending). It’s a few weeks away, and Dodge (Steve Carell) finds himself all alone after his wife abruptly left him after hearing the news. He is just drifting through his final days not knowing what to do or what’s the point. One day, Doge runs into his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley). They’ve lived in the same apartment for years but never spoke before. When a riot occurs, Dodge and Penny head out on a road trip of sorts with the intention of getting Penny to see her family and getting Dodge to find his lost love of his live.
The story is used to phenomenal effect. Let me just get something out of the way first and foremost. There is not a twist at the end where the world really doesn’t come to an end; make no mistake, it ends. Also, the main story of the movie revolves around both dodge and Penny nearing the end of all days. We see how they observe the world, observe other people around them and deal with the inevitable. What I love about the movie is the journey you get taken on. When the news is initially brought to the attention to the people, after it’s settled in, and everything in between was handled in a real kind of way. How would you deal with a situation like that? What would you do? What would you feel? I love how these questions play out.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria did wonders. One of the main themes explored is “sleepwalking through life.” The way she subtly and loudly weaves in many themes in a why that doesn’t hit you over the head too much or become tedious is something else. Her direction never feels sluggish or boring. Ample amount of attention to detail was given; you can just tell she didn’t lag off for a single second. Lorene Scafaria has said she wanted to, “tell the story of boy meets girl with a really ticking clock,” and has done sh while also presenting the idea of a great “what if” scenario. What if one of the “race against time/end of the world” blockbuster didn’t have a happy ending, and we were left to deal with what people were going through back on earth?
The screenplay is phenomenal. Marketing this as a comedy was a mistake; it has some, but not all that much. The way the drama and comedy concise together is amazing. Lorene Scafaria handles the characters well enough to where I could buy into them – especially the two leads. She is a real talent; I look forward to what she does next.
All the performances are outstanding. Steve Carell is usually in straight-up comedies. He plays that role well, but I’m glad he’s turned out to be a versatile actor. 2012 has brought out Carell’s serious side with this and Hope Springs – I look forward to seeing that. Here, he embodies the role so well and adds layers of depth to a character that could have easily been bland and unlikable. Keira Knightley is an actress I’ve always liked, but never loved. She just hadn’t ever seemed to get a role that produced a “wow” performance; aside from Atonement. Well now she finally has a second one. Knightley had to pull off the cute kind of weird girl you don’t know what to think about. Recently, it has been done death. I can’t pick a stand-out performance from that type of role often; now another appears on my list. The supporting performances and cameos work as well.
The soundtrack is another major positive. The music and music placement reminded me of something that would appear in a Cameron Crowe film. Songs from The Beach Boys, Wang Chung, INXS, The Walker Brothers, and many others make up the soundtrack. Not only are they great to listen to, but the way they’re placed enhanced what was going on.
The sad fact is I feel Seeking a Friend for the End of the World will remain unnoticed for the most part. Honestly, I fell this should be up for Oscar consideration in multiple categories to say the least. What an impact the ending had as well – first time I’ve shed a tear in a long time. Minuscule flaws can be found, but they don’t budge my love for this movie.