Seeking Friend for End of World C
Marking the dubious feature directorial debut of screenwriter Lorene Scafaria (the humorous and funny “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”), “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” tries but doesn’t succeed in adding a new kind of film to the disaster-apocalyptic genre.
We must be living in gloomy, depressing times for every year there are several pictures about the End of the World As We Know It. One of the artistic highlights of 2011 was Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia,” an apocalyptic tale centering on two vastly different sisters.
Taking audiences on a semi-moving, semi-humorous, and semi-intimate journey, which is dull and thus seems interminable, Scafaria is ambitious is not particularly talented or skillful to pull off a saga set against the epic backdrop of Earth’s final days.
Set in a too-near future, where time seemingly stands still, though threatening to slip away forever, “Seeking a Friend” is an incoherent film that suffers from miscasting, as well as lack of chemistry and congruent temperaments of its two gifted stars, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. The tale represents a stretch, as they say in acting, for both performers.
The writer-director aims to explore what ordinary human beings will do and feel when humanity is coming to an abrupt end. Ultimately, though, “Seeking a Friend” is just another relationship melodrama, disregarding real politics, which in moments feel like an exploitation of the genre’s basic premises.
The movie is not without merits, and there are individual moments and scenes that register in their poignancy, but overall, Seeking a Friend” is a too literal and too dignified picture.
The first reel is promising. We are told that a 70-mile-wide asteroid is en route to Earth, and that the last attempt to counter it has failed.
Cut to what matters more in this melodrama, that is the failed marriage of a soft-spoken insurance salesman named Dodge (Steve Carell). The breaking news that the world will end in about 21 days motivates his wife to leave him.
In a typical Carell part, Dodge is a mild-mannered, well behaved man, who has always played by the rules. Penny Keira Knightley), his neighbor, stands in sharp contrast to the introvert Dodge: She an extroverted, mischievous woman who has defied both rules and norms.
The binary construction of the film’s central characters is too schematic and simplistic. Even so, hailing from truly opposite perspectives, Dodge and Penny initially choose to navigate the impending end of the world with blinders on.
For example, Dodge declines joining his friends in increasingly reckless behavior, while Penny fixates on her relationship issues with a self-absorbed musician.
The two outsider-misfits meet, when Penny has a rough night and then again when she belatedly delivers Dodge a lost letter. Using a cliché melodramatic device, the scribe suggests that it is the kind fatal letters that could literally change Dodge’s future and completely transform him.
The letter was written from his high-school sweetheart, Olivia, the love of his life. When a riot breaks out around their apartment building, Dodge realizes that he must seek Olivia out before it’s too late. Meanwhile, Penny decides to spend her last days with family in England.
Seizing the moment, Dodge promises to help Penny reach her family contingent that she provides transport for the two of them in her car right away. Penny agrees, and the couple escapes.
From that point on, despite the supposedly “unique” circumstances, “Seeking a Friend” becomes a conventional and predictable road movie, based on the notion of opposites attract.
Spending a lot of time together, the unlikely traveling companions become more open-minded and begin to listen to each other to the point where their respective personal journeys change in both anticipated and unanticipated ways, and their outlooks brighten due to a healthy dosage of humor.
For the sake of originality, Scafaria deviates from the conventions and myth of the disaster genre, aiming to present a different portrait of the end of the world, not the one we have seen in numerous Hollywood movies, defined by the attendant floods, fires, earthquakes, pandemic viruses, and the asteroid hurtling towards Earth, which will be destroyed at the last possible moment by human intervention of epic proportions. But she really has no consistent or intriguing vision of the end of the world, and what we get are bits and pieces, sort of mental and visual snippets of that impending doom.
At this juncture, Scafaria is (relatively speaking) more adept as a scribe than as director. As writer, Scafaria goes out of her way to reconcile her actors’ screen persona and dramatic temperaments.
On paper, the matching of Carell and Knightley must have looked good, but there is really no meaningful rapport between them, and you don’t root for them to join forces, because they don’t belong together. They may also spend too much time inside the car.
Leave a Reply
- Almodovar Tribute: Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown
- Almodovar Tribute: Law of Desire
- Soderbergh Tribute: Out of Sight
- Almodovar Tribute: Matador
- 20 Feet from Stardom
- Almodovar Tribute: What Have I Done to Deserve It?
- Soderbergh Tribute: The Underneath
- Almodovar Tribute: Dark Habits
- Soderbergh Tribute: King of the Hill
- Man of Steel
- Almodovar Tribute: Labyrinth of Passion
- Soderbergh Tribute: Kafka–Sophomore Jinx