Friday, June 22, 2012
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) - Movie Review
Speaking of love, the screening I attended opened with a homemade trailer, which ended up being a marriage proposal for a couple in the audience. She said 'yes', and that put everyone in a good mood leading into this film.
Seeking a Friend... opens with the announcement that a 70 mile wide asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Our last attempt to stop the asteroid failed, so this is it. We have three weeks until impact. Dodge (Steve Carell) is thrown into a depressed state when his wife takes off immediately after getting the news, and is unsure what to do with his remaining time. He meets Penny (Keira Knightley), a neighbor that recently went through a breakup, and just wants to get back home to her family. However, she's stuck due to the airlines shutting down. Dodge decides to try and track down 'the one that got away', and Penny agrees to come along when Dodge promises he knows someone with a plane.
How do you prevent a movie about "the end" starting on too much of a down note? You unleash Rob Corddry and sprinkle in a little Patton Oswalt to lighten the mood. Corddry and his wife (Connie Britton) host an end-of-the-world party and he absolutely steals the opening of the movie. If the world was going to end soon, this is the party where you'd find me. This also serves a good counter to Carell's somber mood.
The movie is at its best when letting its characters give in to temptation. Later, they happen upon a TGI Friday's-type place called 'Friendsy's' where comedian T.J. Miller and Britta from Community (Gillian Jacobs) are employees that are clearly rolling on E and everyone working there might just be a little too friendly. It's a hilarious scene that I wish would have gone on a bit longer. Also, around this time is when they are arrested in a scene that had me scratching my head when I saw it in the trailer, and I feared it might be a bad sign about the movie. I had a hard time believing that a cop would bother pulling someone over for a routine traffic violation given the circumstances. What would be the point? Fortunately, the full sequence made more sense and it ended up not being something that bothered me the in context of the entire film.
The movie is a little all over the place tonally. While the opening is very funny, there are points even early on where they are in immediate danger. Midway through, there's an almost sinister moment when they visit one of Penny's exes. This scene doesn't last very long, but it does mark the point where it finally makes a turn for the serious and emotional. They really lay it on you at the end, but it still works because of the chemistry, and how much you like Dodge and Penny.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are both great. It's an unusual pairing of the deadpan Dodge and Pixie Dream Girl Penny, but it never felt forced to me. They are two good people just looking to connect with someone before it's too late. The rest of the cast is great and you'll recognize many other comedic actors and comedians sprinkled throughout the film. There's no weak link in the cast.
The weakest point of the movie is the ending. While sentimental, it wraps up a little too neatly and felt like a little too much of a typical rom-com ending. Don't get me wrong, I was satisfied with it, but I think they tried too hard to give the movie closure, when it's going to be impossible to have a truly happy ending. There was actually a moment a few minutes before the eventual ending where I think it would have been a better place to wrap it up. Either way, I'm sure you'll see many people reaching for tissue.
This was a really strong directorial debut for Lorene Scafaria, who also wrote the screenplay and previously had written Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. I think the main weakness here is that she couldn't quite decide on the type of movie she wanted to make. Was this a comedy? A drama? She has a knack for quirky though and I'm interested to see what she does next.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is ultimately a mixed bag. It's a flawed film, but the good outweighs the bad. It has some genuine, tender moments and was much funnier that I expected. Fans of Steve Carell or Keira Knightley will enjoy them and their relationship. It's actually a pretty good date movie for a matinee.
3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars