Which do you think is more important: A strong beginning, or a strong ending? For me, it is the ending. The ending tends to stick with you more, and makes the whole work feel more satisfying. So I suspect this is why I do not like Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World, a comedy drama written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. If you are a beginnings person, however, you might like it just fine.
The film has a very strong beginning. An asteroid is approaching Earth, and scientists have failed to destroy it in time. The world will end within a month. Dodge (Steve Carell) hears the news with his wife Linda, who takes off running, never to be seen again. Dodge tries to carry on as normal. There is a lot of dark humour about how people will react to the end of the world- they might try to carry on as normal and pretend nothing is wrong, they might kill themselves, they might devote themselves to a hedonist lifestyle. Dodge is depressed about being alone, and bonds with his neighbour Penny (Keira Knightly) who just broke up with her boyfriend. After a riot breaks out, they flee together. Penny actually has some of Dodge’s mail which included a letter from his high school sweetheart, saying she still loves him. The two now have two goals: to find Dodge’s long lost love and to get Penny to a man who can fly her home to England to be with her family.
Much of the film is an impromptu road trip, and with Carell in a serious, charming role it reminded me a bit of Little Miss Sunshine. I do love both Steve Carell and Keira Knightly in this movie. They are both wonderfully charming and Knightly surprised me with her comedy chops. The film however starts to go downhill once they sleep together for the first time and become romantically involved. Despite the age difference, Dodge and Penny have good chemistry and I can see why they would end up together. The film however has little confidence in the pairing. Dodge points out the age difference, which, sure, is a concern for most people. But then it seems like it takes forever for them to really realize that they want to be together, despite scene after scene of them bonding and talking and making eye contact. I stopped enjoying the film when they lose their car and end up going to Speck, one of Penny’s ex boyfriends. Speck has a bunker prepared for the end of the world, and a working satellite phone. He lets Penny use it to phone home. He then gives them a car and give Dodge advice on how to handle Penny, despite being hung up over her himself. Speck is, apparently, the best ex boyfriend to ever grace the planet. He is a cinnamon roll, too good for this world (or this movie) but the scenes with him just do not work, especially when he takes Dodge aside to tell him what a survivor Penny is. The dialogue is really unnatural and serves no purpose but to analyze Penny’s character for the audience rather than trust them to do so on their own.
The rest of the movie is just bland and did not hold my attention. The ending was rather bleak, although I did at least appreciate the moral they were going for; it is the quality of the time you have left, not the quantity. Sadly, the film did not take its own advice and I stopped caring before the film had any chance to pull my heart strings.