Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,
directed by Lorene Scafaria
(Focus, 2012)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World popped up one day in my queue of recommended movies on Netflix over the holidays. It looked goofy, and I was in the mood for goofy, so I clicked "play" and sat back.

It's funny, yes, but rarely goofy after all. In fact, there's only one truly silly scene, and it stands out as out of place among the rest of the film. Overall, Seeking a Friend is sweetly amusing, and ultimately much more touching than I expected it to be.

The movie begins with the news: The world is ending. A mission to deflect or destroy the Earth-killing asteroid has failed, and now there's nothing the human race can do to stop the cataclysmic collision that will smash the planet and end humanity forever.

Dodge (Steve Carell) hears the news in his car with his wife, Linda, who takes this as a sign to flee him -- and their marriage -- for the end of the world. Turns out she wasn't entirely devoted to the institution anyway. That leaves Dodge, already something of a hapless sadsack, adrift for the final days.

Then he meets a neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), who has just broken up with her boyfriend and is hopelessly sad that she's missed the last flight back to England, where she had hoped to spend her final moments with her family. She also delivers to Dodge a pile of his misdelivered mail, which she's been hoarding for, well, reasons. Turns out his high school sweetheart has been trying to reconnect with him and, at Penny's urging, Dodge decides to spend his remaining time winning her back.

Penny, with nothing else to do, tags along with Dodge for the road trip to romance. Meanwhile, the world dissolves into anarchy around them.

This film has a few flaws -- the aforementioned goofy scene, at a restaurant/pub that has become some sort of bacchanalian commune, is out of place, and a sudden shift at the end when scientists abruptly realize the asteroid will hit Earth several days sooner than expected, which is just bad science -- but overall it's sweetly romantic, a love story oddly placed during the apocalypse. I was looking for a distraction, and I found a really good film.

review by
Tom Knapp

6 February 2016

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