Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
The best scene in Lorene Scafaria’s schizophrenic Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a Luis Bunuel-esque dinner party that occurs shortly after the announcement of the literal apocalypse in the form of a gigantic asteroid approaching the Earth’s atmosphere. Though it starts with a group of friends and acquaintances gathered around a table, discussing their abruptly made plans as the final day approaches, it quickly devolves (evolves?) into pure debauchery in what is the film’s funniest and most honest scene.
The second best involves a TGI Friday’s-like franchise restaurant in the middle of nowhere that has become a euphoric drug-fueled orgy, though Scafaria and her characters are quick to leave before the scene threatens to become interesting. Instead, she gives us an overlong, tiresome travelogue with tonally inconsistent humor interspersed throughout a dreadfully depressing scenario and tops it off with a climax based around the absent father reminding a central character that he’s still dad even though he was never around. Doesn’t dad ever just take off and change his name when he gets the phone call in Hollywood? Like in real life?
Dodge (Steve Carrell) spends the first week of the last three on Earth losing his wife, continuing to work at his insurance job, feeling sorry for himself, and generally living in denial. His life, going nowhere even during the end times, is abruptly turned on its head when one of the neighbors he never speaks to, Penny (Keira Knightley)—who owns a magic copy of Scott that plays “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”—shows up in his windowsill. During a riot, Dodge rescues Penny, whose primary character traits are smoking pot and owning records, and the two go on a cross-country trip to meet up with Dodge’s long-lost girlfriend. Things in this relationship get a little complicated, somehow; it’s never quite clear as the only people who have less chemistry together than Carrell and Knightley are the characters of Penny and Dodge.
Seeking a Friend is a road movie where events don’t so much progress naturally as just happen, a comedy with a lot of jokes that either fall flat or come off mean, and an ending that can’t decide whether it’s syrupy or nihilistic. Recommended for people who have no idea what they want in a film.