16 July 2012 | mbs
I think time will be really really good to this one. Its a strange strange movie but it definitely works
This is one of those movies that I suspect will become a lot better through repeat viewing on TV some years from now. (or even next year when it ends up showing up on HBO at 3 AM every couple of nights) Its a strange, strange movie and i think fans of eccentric romantics comedies will love it--movie somewhat reminded me of some of my own personal off beat comedy romances like Joe Versus The Volcano or Defending Your Life or Ghost Town ins some ways---except with much blacker humor---however oh boy will not everyone like this one, but those who do will very much love it passionately. I saw this with my mom and even though I felt certain she would have liked the odd mixture of super dark comedy with somewhat typical "steve carell is lovesick" brand romantic comedy (which the film threatens to become in the last half but somehow manages to starve off somewhat) but she did not care for it at all calling it way too depressing, and that not even the sweetness could hide the sourness of that first half. (Her immediate words after the end credits came up were "well that was cheerful Matthew, thanks for dragging me to this one") I on the other hand quite enjoyed how completely and totally dark that first half hour is, and how the flashes of darkness that pop up throughout the film as it goes on the more conventional Lovelorn Steve Carrell falls in love path manage to bring the film tonally back in line with that first half hour, so that even when the film turns into a somewhat off beat romantic comedy--the tone at least remains consistent.
What i love more than anything i think is how completely realistic the film feels in its depiction of humanity reacting to their imminent demise. Those scenes of Carrell at the office and in the H.R. meeting where he's told that some promotional opportunities have somehow arisen ("Who here wants to be the new CFO? Anyone? it comes with a bump in salary!") are priceless, as is the scenes of him just kind of wallowing in the craziness that's going on around him. Carrell by the way is the perfect leading man for this because his everyman passivity works wonderfully with the insanity that's going on around him even more so then usual. (the usual meaning the way he is when he's playing these lovelorn but quiet down to earth everyman guys ala Dan In Real Life and not the way he is on The Office needless to say.)
The romance with Kiera Knightley is fine. They actually play pretty well off each other and I can totally buy him falling head over heels in love with her in spite of his many misgivings that pop up as the film goes along. Knightley constantly clutching the stack of random records that she takes from her apartment is a very nice touch for her character and tells you more about her then any of her various dialog scenes she has--still those scenes in the last half where she's ruminating about how she's never going to see her family again, or where she's thinking about all the time she wasted on people who didn't matter, who she knew didn't even matter while she was with them instead of being with the handful of people she really wishes she could spend more time with was very emotionally well done. She i think manages to be warmer and likable in a way that she hasn't in a long time here but that may just be me.
The ending is pitch perfect too for whatever that's worth.
There is definitely going to be a growing group of people discovering this one for years and years from now and falling in love with it. Who knew it took Armageddon to get Steve Carrell to turn in an even halfway engaging performance again? (and if you don't think he does a great job here---see his monologue in the jail cell a little over an hour in--that is one heartbreaking monologue and he's wonderful delivering it in his own quiet way.) Its not a perfect film, but whatever flaws you can throw at it---the storyline's not the most well thought out, things seem to happen and then not happen as if on cue--how does Carrell manage to end up back at his apt and finding it in one piece after badly needing to leave it lest he be destroyed along with it???) whatever flaws you can throw at it i think can be met with a shrug and a dismissal if only because Carrell, Knightley, and that dark, bittersweet tone more than compensate for any scratches along the way. (Besides its the scratches in the well worn grooves that make the movie richer and fuller and have a deeper sound anyways.)