Movie Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

A modest, cosmically funny movie that packs a heavy multilevel punch (8/10)
Directed by Lorene Scarfaria

SeekingFirst, let me tell you that if you’re a Keira Knightley fan solely because of her movie star glamour and celebrity, Seeking a Friend is not for you. I doubt we’ll ever see a more frumpy Keira than her role as Penny. At her real age of 27 the actress looks 10-15 years older… and plays a character who is old beyond her years. Plays it extremely well. Yet what Penny lacks in outer beauty she more than makes up for with inner substance. Oddly enough, the Steve Carell lost-soul character, Dodge—Carell in real life was 50 when this movie was made—, awakens Penny’s substance, her youthful romanticism. And she becomes the beauty we’re used to.

They are, indeed, a match made for the end of the world. The movie opens with:

“OK, what we’re getting now is, yes, they’re saying it was in fact a fire that erupted inside the external tank of the ship, exactly ninety-eight seconds after it entered the asteroid field. No one is sure what caused the fire which led to the massive explosion, killing all twelve crew members and scientists aboard the space shuttle Deliverance, taking with them our last and only hope. Once again, if you’re just tuning in, the CSA space shuttle Deliverance has been destroyed. The final mission to save mankind has failed. The seventy-mile-wide asteroid known commonly as Matilda is set to collide with Earth in exactly three weeks time, and we’ll be bringing you up-to-the-minute coverage of our countdown to the ‘End of Days’, along with ALL your classic rock favorites. This is Q107.2.”

What an opening line! And what a premise for generating a plot. So you get the picture, right away, the human race effectively ends—except perhaps for some serious preppers (who do come into the picture at one point)—in three weeks. Tidal waves, aerial debris, secondary blasts, “dogs and cats sleeping together,” end-of-the-world Ghostbusters sort of stuff. In a few days following the impact of the asteroid, every human being on the surface of the earth will be dead or dying. [Interestingly, the likelihood of a catastrophic asteroid encounter with Earth is significant enough that advocates of space exploration use that prospect as major justification for their cause.]

Dodge, whose wife has actually run off and left him at the above three week notice of impact, is an insurance salesman with an upper-middle-class lifestyle and sets of friends. The interactions at work and with his social circle are full of (literally cosmic in this case) humor that you won’t forget. Many of the scenes and the words flow so quickly that you don’t get the full significance at first viewing; in fact, because of these subtleties, every time you watch Seeking a Friend, your appreciation rises a few notches. Here are but two:

  1. For a few days after the three-week point Dodge continues to commute to work and to take calls. Here’s a classic, where I hear the ghost of Bob Newhart in his prime:

“I’m sorry, sir, that’s not covered under your current policy.
“I’m afraid the Armageddon package is extra, yes.
“Well, that protects you and your family against any sort of apocalyptic disaster, asteroids, obviously plague, famine, locusts.
“Drawbacks?
“Umm, the premiums are high…. I’m sorry, can you just hold on for one moment, thank you.” [Turns and throws up in waste basket.]

  1. At the party hosted by his friends Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton), Dodge’s friend Roache (Patton Oswalt) gets plastered and talks about how these are the best of times because “it’s raining pussy, man. They don’t care if you’re married, or how much money you make… or if you have a small dick.” And he wants Dodge to join him to “double stuff that cookie with me.” Which Dodge, recognizing the whole absurdity of life at this point, declines.

Seeking is a road movie with a twist, well several twists. Dodge and Penny, after learning they’ve been neighbors in the upscale apartment complex for three years, wind up in a meaningful chat just before the street riots start nearby and they join forces to get the flock outta there. The scene where they leave behind her neurotic and useless boyfriend (played by Adam Brody) is a scream. By various means and after several incidents, Dodge and Penny reach the first object of their journey, which turns into the second object, which turns into the third, etc.

All along, their relationship slowly blossoms, and ultimately in the most touching of ways. Kudos to both actors for their understated brilliance in their performances… not to mention their courage for taking on the roles in what might turn out to remain a small movie. Kudos to writer/director Lorene Scarfaria for bringing these fabulous ideas to life… and to the producers for taking a chance at the box office. I predict that Seeking a Friend for the End of the World will become a true classic, the quintessence of subtlety conveying depth. And I can’t wait to watch it again and again. Bonus: a killer soundtrack.

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