21 June 2012 | D_Burke
Impending Doom With a Side of Honey
Everyone knows about the calm that happens before the storm. In "Seeking A Friend for the End of the World", what's amazing is just how long that calm lasts.
Throughout the first part of this film, you can't help but wonder, as you watch, how you would react if you heard nonchalant reports on radio and TV about a 70-mile wide asteroid heading for Earth and destroying life as we know it. Would you seek refuge in a fallout shelter and hope for the best, or say "To hell with it!" and do all the things you couldn't do when there was established order with a purpose?
Dodge (Steve Carell) seems to find a third option no one else even tries to consider: sitting calmly and maintaining his own order as virtually everyone else is participating in an orgy or a riot. While being calm works for him as a survival instinct, it also reflects his loneliness. The more people surrounding him, the lonelier he seems.
Very similar to Bill Murray's character in "Lost In Translation", Carell is great at conveying so much despite doing so little. It becomes all the more fascinating when he's the only character in the movie who does not throw caution into the wind. After all, would you be this calm if the world was going to end?
Keira Knightley is Penny, a vibrant but distraught British woman who lives in the same building as Dodge. She appears one night outside his window, and is frantically crying after her realization that she can't fly back home to Great Britain to see her family. Knightley serves as a great contrast to Carell in many ways, and she is a welcome presence in this movie. And I am SO glad the film didn't try to cover her sweet British accent.
The film evolves into a sort of road-trip movie when a riot ensues outside their apartment building, and Dodge persuades Penny to drive to Somerset, Delaware because he knows someone who owns an airplane. As it turns out, Dodge also had a high school girlfriend who wrote to him a few months earlier, before his wife left him.
Sounds like a familiar journey from another movie? Well, "Seeking A Friend For The End of the World" takes you in one direction you think you're going, and then often makes a sharp left when you least expect it. The movie is also funnier than the title suggests, has some startling moments I never saw coming nor expected, and keeps you watching for many reasons.
Is there a love story between Dodge and Penny? Like the recent "Salmon Fishing In The Yemen" (2012), you find yourself unsure if the two main characters should fall in love, or if there is at least a little attraction, or if it really makes any difference.
There are other things you wonder while watching this movie. Most notably, is the world really going to end? Everyone in this movie seems to think so. While it's fascinating to see how different characters react to the news, you keep watching because you want to see if it really does. It can't be a dream or a delusion, can it?
It's great that in a summer season of action flicks and disaster films, there's one film that takes its time showing how ordinary people react to extraordinary things. There's an asteroid headed towards Earth, but there are no explosions, deaths, astronauts, superheroes, or even (surprisingly) camera shots of the sky in this movie whatsoever. Moviegoers who hated "Armageddon" (1998) will be relieved, I'm sure.
Besides Carell and Knightley, other fairly well-known actors show up so briefly, their appearances could practically be considered cameos. Still, every performance by everyone involved stays with you to the point where you probably pinpoint one character and say, "Yeah, I'd probably be THAT guy given the circumstances". As the doomsday clock counts down and the movie ends, you may find yourself reevaluating what you want the last image in your mind to be before it's all over.