Enjoyable in small doses, Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has the basic problem of always lacking something. The film attempts to rework and reimagine the romantic comedy by stamping a pre-Apocalyptic bent on it, but never knows what exactly its aims are. Is it a quirky comedy? A depressing tract on the eventuality of death? It’s neither, and by never picking a tone, Seeking a Friend is ultimately not much anything. The film starts off strong enough, as we learn the news that in three weeks, an asteroid will strike the earth, essentially ending civilization. We meet Dodge (Steve Carell), whose wife runs out on him after hearing the news. In the meantime, Dodge’s job in life insurance has become pointless, and all of his friends have transformed into heroin-dabbling, sexually promiscuous hedonists. Finding himself all alone at the end of the world, Dodge wants nothing to do with any of this, and instead he sinks into apocalyptic ennui (for a comedy, we get a lot of Carrell staring longingly off into the distance), until he meets quirky neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). After a riot on their block nearly gets them killed, the two run off to live what’s left of their lives by misadventure, with Dodge looking for a long lost love and Penny looking for a way to make it back to her family. In the film’s favor, it never quite devolves into romcom basic, though it easily could have. The film has a strange way of oscillating between going farther than you expect it to and doing exactly what you predict. Nothing, especially the growth of our leads, feels natural. The idea is obviously to have a pall of death, melancholy, and even existential dread hanging over everything, but with flimsy — and pretty dull — lead characters, Seeking a Friend never earns the emotional response it so desperately wants.
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Producer: Steve Golin, Joy Gorman Wettels, Steven Rales and Mark Roybal
Cast: Keira Knightley, Steve Carell, Connie Britton, Melanie Lynskey, T.J. Miller, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Patton Oswalt, William Petersen and Derek Luke
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World