STARRING: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley,
Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, William Peterson
2012, 101 Minutes, Directed by:
a Friend for the End of the World is a difficult film to classify . . .
It doesn’t help that it’s
saddled with an odd title. Perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising since it marks
the directorial debut of screenwriter Lorene Scafaria, best known for a
similarly offbeat film with a weird title, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist.
This is a science fiction movie
where the science fiction takes place off-screen. However if you give yourself
over to its “what if” premise, it turns out to be funny and moving and thought
provoking. Cynics need not apply.
The film opens with a newscast
announcing that the last hope of stopping a meteor heading towards Earth has
failed and that, in three weeks, the planet is doomed. As with last year’s
Melancholia, which had a similar premise, the
focus is not on scientists and others try to stave off the inevitable or save
some remnant of humanity. Instead our attention is on Dodge (Steve Carell), an
insurance salesman whose wife has reacted to the news by running away. What
should he do with the time he has remaining?
That’s the real question of the
film and, as in Melancholia, there’s a lot of denial among those facing
the end. However this is also the flip side of that film in that it finds the
dark humor in the situation, as well as showing some people choosing to face the
end with faith, hope and love. It’s a delicate high wire act that Scafaria has
set for herself and she brings it off.
At first we see a lot of people
behaving badly. Fewer people show up for work because, after all, what’s the
point? There are riots in the city and suicide is not uncommon, including hiring
someone to assassinate you. Others continue in their normal routines as if
nothing has changed, including Dodge’s maid. When he tells her there’s no reason
to keep cleaning his apartment she thinks she’s being fired.
"If you give yourself over to its 'what if' premise, it turns out to be
funny and moving."
Others engage in orgies of one
sort or another, and a suburban party scene where people are out of control
displays outrageous behavior with deadpan seriousness, earning some of the best
laughs in the film.
Ultimately Dodge makes the
acquaintance of his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) who has just broken up with
her boyfriend and has a fondness for old vinyl records. They leave New York for
Delaware. Dodge hopes to track down an old girlfriend before the end and to get
Penny to a private pilot who might get her home to England and her parents.
Things don’t turn out quite as expected.
Carell and Knightley are an odd
combination for a road trip movie but they underplay their roles to perfection.
If you know you have only a limited time left do you simply not care or do you
focus on the things that are really worth caring about? In that sense the movie
is a metaphor for life. We in the audience may have more than three weeks left,
but are you just killing time or doing something with it?
Worlds Collide to Armageddon and Melancholia,
the “end of the world” story is a science fiction staple. Instead of featuring
special effects, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World focuses on two
lonely people. If you’re willing to go along, this is a movie that is much more
emotionally satisfying than the pile of failed melodramas and romantic comedies
that have gotten released thus far this year.