Under 250: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Melancholia gave us a doom and gloom opera of macrocosms and microcosms. Another Earth played out like a saw-sung dirge for the end of days. Take Shelter dug a hole in the ground and capitalized on our uncertainty. After the big-budget actions wreak their own havoc, what's left for a small apocalyptic romance like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World? Answer: the in-between things. Seeking is a film trapped between the what if doomsday scenarios of the blockbusters and the intellect of the art house. It delivers on its promises of chaos while rooting itself deeply in a human, character-driven terrain. There's a quirky melancholy to the film, one that's touching even as it manifests itself through humorous absurdities. In the opening scene, we watch as Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife sit in a parked car listening to the announcement of the Earth's impending destruction on the radio. The end is near, and Dodge's wife responds to the news by fleeing, as fast as she can, out of the car and to an off-screen lover. As the infrastructure of civilization begins to crumble, Dodge meets his goofily spastic neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley), and in an emergency turn they embark on curious adventure through the end of days. Carell is, of course, good at playing any number of sad, lonely guys, and Knightley builds her character away from accusations of standard issue MPDG-syndrome to give her real dimension and purpose. First time director Lorene Scafaria guides her odd couple through dangerous tonal shifts and surreal scenes with surprising dexterity given the story's brooding, calamitous nature. Given the subject matter, though, Scafaria can't stop Seeking a Friend from being slippery and occasionally frustrating. Par for the course, and definitely forgivable.