With an asteroid on a collision course with earth and no hope of escape, Dodge (Carell
) goes on an journey to find the one that got away.Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
has been billed heavily as a comedy in the months up to release but its true genre isn’t so simple. It’s easy to understand why studio types would want to promote it that way, with Steve Carell
front and centre and a series of preposterous and hysterical events but the film has one big issue standing in the way – namely a seventy-mile wide asteroid by the name of Matilda.
Like the movies’ protagonists, the film simply can’t dodge the fact that it puts forward a world where the Earth is on a collision course with an Extinction Level Event and that fact flavours every moment of the picture. So while many potentially humourous things happen in Seeking a Friend…
they are all coloured by our human reaction to the situation, by the terrible desperation of casual sex, the horror or hiring someone to murder you or the desolation of the possibility of meeting this end totally alone.
The film itself, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria
, can’t reconcile these conflicting tones either – gaining giggles from a hedonistic Patton Oswalt
one minute and casually dropping in the suicide of a colleague in the next. It certainly makes for a memorable movie-going experience but it’s likely to cause mixed reactions in audiences, especially those who have picked up a ticket just to check out Carell’s
For his part, Carell
does good work here. Looking a mite more chiselled than usual, he still doles out the same loser character we’ve become used to seeing. But, for once, his sighs and slouches and hangdog expressions seems appropriate as the end of days approaches. He’s a straight man for much of the comedy moments and deals well with the drama, even as the narrative plunges headlong into emotional overdrive during the finale.
Next to him, Knightley
fares quite well – given the chance to use her natural tones and keeping the twitching to a minimum. The occasional hysterics of the character can be grating and she’s just a little too obviously quirky (a spontaneous sleeping disorder and an obsession with old records – please!) but provides a decent enough foil forCarell
. Support comes from Adam Brody
, Melanie Lynsky
, Martin Sheen
and Rob Corddry
but it’s mostly just a two hander.Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
is an interesting film and should be commended for taking its premise to the logical conclusion, with a due of ending moments which are designed to tear at the heartstrings. But the character motivations are problematic, more keyed to the desperation of the condemned than the normal development of a relationship and the strains may be pitched to dramatically for some. But the main problem is that the entire story just seems overwhelmingly sad, a despairing window into the last days of a doomed populace wishing and praying for a few more hours, indulging in their every whim or ending it all in a burst of violence. It’s not fertile ground for a comedy and makes you feel like a terrible person for even expecting giggles.