"The entire romantic narrative feels somewhat superfluous, not to mention misleading - what happened to merely seeking a friend?"
It's always enjoyable when a film poses a stimulating, hypothetical "What if..." question, and in Lorene Scafaria's Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, we are posed with the scenario of what you would do if there were only three weeks left before the collapsing of planet Earth. A conjectural proposition that arouses your mind, which, at the very least, survives the journey home.
As the horrifying news comes in that there will be only three weeks left before an asteroid hits Earth and destroys it entirely, the world hits panic mode, as people attempt to spend their final three weeks as vigorously as they can, spending their cherished last days prudently, making the most of time with their loved ones. However, one man who isn't particularly fussed by the terrible news is Dodge (Steve Carell) - a lonely, dejected man happy to see out the remaining three weeks of his life on his own.
Following the departure of his wife, Dodge is more than content at wallowing in his own misery, until he meets the adventurous Penny (Kiera Knightley) - a young girl who is desperately seeking a flight home to England to see her family. However, there are no pilots willing to work, so Dodge devises a plan to help Penny return home. Now with a purpose to his life, Dodge is intent on assisting Penny, whilst in the meantime, Penny is doing much the same for her new friend, providing a kinship to a man in need of one, as the pair, despite both feeling solitary and melancholic, are at least certain of having one another as the end of the world draws closer.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an intriguing concept, brilliantly devised to make the audience imagine what they would do in the exact same situation. However, upon pondering such a situation, I know for a fact I'd have more fun than our protagonists, and it's their resistance towards adventure which is one of the more frustrating aspects to this feature. The more amusing scenes come in the form of people making the most of the final time they have left, with people trying heroin and taking part in meaningless orgies, whereas we are presented with two main characters who spend the majority of their time complaining. I'd like to see this film presented from Harold and Kumar's perspective. 'Seeking a Joint for the End of the World'. Sounds much more enjoyable.
Having said this, the film does strike a nice balance between comedy and tragedy, depicting both the enjoyable, carefree aspects to the end of the world, with the devastating prospects too. As a result the feature does feel like a film of two halves, as the opening half an hour is somewhat fun and jovial, whilst the latter stages are far more serious and quite poignant. In a sense, it seems almost reflective of what it would actually be like in such a situation. The film does desert it's comedy quite palpably though, as Scafaria makes the transition to drama a little too conspicuously, as the two genres could be blended together more proficiently.
Where Scafaria does excel, however, is within her ability to avoid mawkishness, as considering the questions asked and themes explored, this picture could so easily have been overly sentimental and bathetic, yet it manages to approach the situation, particularly the finale, with a level of integrity and the poignant scenes are well presented.
Both Knightley and Carell are impressive, although their relationship does seem somewhat forced and they don't have a realistic chemistry, not coming across as a compatible couple. As the pending romance between the two blossoms, we don't get a sense of the magnitude within their feelings to warrant their getting together, as if they've managed to fall in love behind our back. The entire romantic narrative feels somewhat superfluous also, not to mention misleading - what happened to merely seeking a friend?
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is an enjoyable film, and one that certainly sticks with you. It's intelligent and charming within its approach, yet remains undemanding and easy to indulge in. Although this may be the perfect film to watch on a rainy day, if you're seeking a movie for the end of the world, I'd look elsewhere.