The marriage of Dodge and Linda Peterson must not be a very gratifying one. This is pretty clear because, as the couple sit in their car and listen to the local light rock station announce the impending end of the world via the 70-mile-wide meteor Matilda, Linda (Nancy Carell in a fun cameo) bolts from the car, never to be seen again. That leaves Dodge (Steve Carell) all alone to face the end of days.
Dodge tries many things to fill his time: he goes to work, he goes to a dinner party with friends, he drinks cough syrup, but he continues to drift through life just as he drifted through life before the asteroid apocalypse. That is, until he meets Penny (Keira Knightley), a neighbor in his building. She, like Dodge, is having a little trouble adjusting to the end of life. After their meet-cute (and a riot that drives them from their apartment building), the two find themselves wandering with a purpose. There’s not much time left, and who wants to die with unresolved issues?
The two agree to help one another, and the hijinks begin.
To that end, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is a series of vignettes strung together by a road movie plot. Dodge wants to find his first love and reunite; Penny wants to find a plane and get back to England to die alongside her family. Along the way they meet a fairly wide swath of humanity, all of whom are interesting characters in their own right. The journey is more important than the destination, as it usually is.
This is a wonderful cast of characters. The two leads—Carell and Knightley—are great together. They have good chemistry, they’re both capable of handling the dramatic work and the comedy aspects, and they’re just delightful to see on screen. They’re both the sort of actors who you feel comfortable rooting for. Steve Carell was born to play a man having a midlife crisis, and he is brilliant at playing emotions bubbling under an otherwise passive surface. The movie’s supporting characters, like Connie Britton and Rob Corddry as unhappily married Diane and Warren, are all well-cast and well-acted. They’re kind of one-note, since they’re all acting out, but who wouldn’t be acting out in the face of impending death?
That’s where Seeking A Friend really shines. The characters all seem to behave in a fairly reasonable manner. There’s no superhero who can save the day, no mass Hands Across America-style coming together. People riot and steal. People drink and drug and party. People kill themselves and each other. Shopkeepers gouge customers, survivalists hole up in their underground bunkers, and two sweet people go on a mad road trip to find some closure. It’s bittersweet; the middle sections offer some kind of hope and optimism that, while there’s not much time left, there’s enough time to die on your own terms. Whatever those may be.
The writing is pretty sharp, though dramady is a tough line to walk. Writer/Director Lorene Scafarina (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) walks that line fairly well, but the movie pitches more towards melancholy and might be poorly served by the quirky marketing tack. Yes, there are some very funny moments in the opening and middle, but the film definitely gets very depressing towards the end. It’s a positive, moving sort of sad. Even though the film is pretty clear how things are going to wind up, the journey to that end is worthwhile.
Still, it’s a very melancholy trip. Even as we see people trying to maintain some sense of normalcy, like cutting the lawn or having a yard sale, there’s an overwhelming sadness to the whole trip. There’s some laughter, but it’s laughing on the way to the gallows. Seeking A Friend is probably the most depressing comedy ever released in theaters; just because the movie’s good and even heartwarming at times doesn’t mean it’s not also incredibly sad.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here