Seeking a Friend Not the Usual Disaster Film
- Christa Banister Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 22 Jun
DVD Release Date: October 23, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: June 22, 2012
Rating: R (for language, including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence)
Run Time: 101 min.
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Actors: Steve Carell, Nancy Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Martin Sheen, Melanie Lynskey
In most disaster movies, the bulk of the film’s running time is dedicated to watching the world—or in Titanic’s case, a luxurious cruise ship with several thousand souls on board—go down in truly spectacular fashion. To wit, we get to know the characters just enough to care about their impending doom, but not so much that it steals any precious minutes from the Main Event.
But in writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, it’s the three weeks before the forthcoming arrival of a 70-mile wide asteroid named Matilda that count here.
Instead of focusing on how the familiar landmarks we all know and love will crumble to pieces a la 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow or showcasing a new and thoroughly terrifying way to die (think last year’s Contagion), we’re invited to what’s, perhaps, the most disturbing reality TV show of them all, an up-close-and-personal look at how a few residents of the Garden State ultimately choose to live their final weeks.
For whatever reason, the affable Steve Carell (Crazy Stupid Love) continues to gravitate toward lovable loser characters, and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is no exception. This time around, he’s a preppy-attired sad sack named Dodge, an insurance salesman who claims he only got married to his wife Linda (Carell’s real-life wife, Nancy) so he wouldn’t have to die alone.
And then in a twist of irony that would’ve actually made that annoying Alanis Morissette song from the mid ‘90s ring true, Linda has no intention of spending her final weeks with her husband. In fact, as they hear the devastating news together on the car radio, she bursts into tears, opens the passenger door and sprints into the forest, leaving Dodge to deal with the apocalypse on his own.
Naturally, everyone, including Dodge, has a different way of coping with the eventual death sentence. Dodge’s pal Warren (Rob Corddry, TV’s Community) drowns his sorrow in copious amounts of alcohol and daydreams of how much “action” his single pals are getting, while Dodge’s sweet cleaning lady goes the whole denial route. While she could be spending the extra hours with her family, her weekly routine of Windex-ing and vacuuming makes her feel like all is right in the world.
Strangely enough, Dodge also embraces the regular 9-to-5 routine, and let’s just say, his insurance calls are a little more entertaining with the end drawing near. But when one of his co-workers leaps off the building and his body winds up on Dodge’s windshield, he’s seriously jolted and more keenly aware of how he'd better make the most of these last moments. So when his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley, A Dangerous Method) is crying outside his apartment’s window, he tries to do the right thing, rather than simply ignoring her and resuming his pity party.
Thanks to the not-so-lovable loser in her life, her boyfriend (Adam Brody, Scream 4), Penny has now missed the last plane (ever!) to England, where her family happens to live. Without an opportunity to say goodbye to the ones she loves so much, Penny is clearly inconsolable. Well, until Dodge offers a possible solution, namely a friend with an airplane who might be able to help.
As Dodge and Penny get to know each other better, Penny discovers that Dodge is a man with many sorrows of his own. Not only has he been estranged from his father for more than 25 years after his dad ditched him and his mother, he’s also pining for one last chance to reconnect with his high school sweetheart—the “one who got away.” While she can’t necessarily help with the whole father/son dynamic, Penny offers her assistance on the lost love front. So before they seek out the friend with a plane, apparently, an old-fashioned road trip is in order.
Now considering their backgrounds (he’s funny in a subtle way, she’s the queen of the corset) and that Carell is about two decades older than Knightley, a fact the screenplay doesn’t shy away from, one would naturally assume this odd little pairing wouldn’t work. But for whatever reason, the clever script with plenty of heart pulls the best out of both of them, and they have some unexpectedly winsome chemistry.
Of course, as anyone who’s ever been on a road trip knows, not everything always goes as planned. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, that basically turns out to be the understatement of the year. Not only are Dodge and Penny forced to hitch a ride to South Jersey after their car is no longer drivable, but the guy they end up riding with has an early exit planned for himself, thanks to a hit man he hired.
As expected, there are plenty more hijinks where that came from, and it all plays out in mostly amusing, and occasionally, even touching fashion. What’s curiously missing from the proceedings, however, is anyone questioning—or even wondering about—what might happen after life as they know it draws to a close. While there’s definitely a sense of urgency about embracing what’s meaningful in your final hours, always a timely lesson, we get the sense that these characters believe this event is the final curtain call for humanity—a reality even more depressing than an asteroid destroying the earth in the first place.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Considering the end of the world is nigh, people abuse alcohol and drugs (including heroin) with abandon. We see Penny smoking weed on a couple of occasions.
- Language/Profanity: About a dozen uses of the “f” word, including an instance where a parent tells his school-age child to go f--- himself. God and Jesus’s names are both abused on occasion, and there are a couple of milder profanities, too.
- Sex/Nudity: Crude references to female anatomy. A crude sign that offers sex with a virgin is shown. A married woman kisses a man who isn’t her husband (he doesn’t respond to her advances). Discussion of another married woman’s affair. A couple of references to orgies, not to mention why sex with an impending apocalypse on the horizon is great—no fear of pregnancy or STDs or negative commentary on the size of male anatomy. At a TGI Friday’s-like restaurant called Friendsy’s, the wait staff is overly affectionate with everyone. The female server not only kisses Dodge but Penny, too. Eventually, the staff all starts loving on each other (we see a male server grab another male server’s backside). Dodge and Penny have sex off-screen (he’s regretful, she chalks it up to the obligatory end-of-the-world sex).
- Violence: One of Dodge’s co-workers commits suicide and falls dramatically on Dodge’s windshield with him in the car. A man Dodge and Penny is riding with is shot—and killed—by a hit man. There are a couple of scenes with rioting (buildings and personal property are destroyed in the process).
- Religion/Morals: There are themes of personal sacrifice and do-gooding throughout the movie, but these acts don’t have a spiritual center. When talking about how they could use their remaining time on Earth, one of the things Dodge says he could be doing is “finding God.” A news magazine listing the “Best of Humanity” has Jesus and Oprah sharing top billing. At a party nicknamed “The Last Supper,” Dodge’s drunken friend justifies his behavior by saying “You think Jesus was sober for his Last Supper? Do you think he turned water into lemonade?” A baptism is shown.