“Seeking a Friend For the End of the World” is one kind of movie for its first half, and then becomes something different and less interesting the further it goes on. It’s not a bad movie by any means, but could have been much better.
The film, as you may have gathered from the title, concerns a group of characters coping with the coming apocalypse. Steve Carell is Dodge, a sad-sack insurance salesman who is ditched in the opening scene by his wife (Nancy Walls, Carell’s real-life wife, who ditched him early in The Office, too.)
After commiserating with friends, Dodge goes on the road with his attractive, much-younger neighbor (Keira Knightley), as the two seek to reunite with loved ones before the asteroid hits Earth.
Directed by Lorene Scafaria, ‘Seeking a Friend’ in its early scenes hints at a darkly comic sensibility that it quickly abandons. One early party scene features a dream cast that includes Connie Britton, Rob Corrdry, Rob Huebel, Amy Schumer and Patton Oswalt, who gives a side-splitting drunken speech that may be the best one-scene party-guest cameo since Quentin Tarantino’s “Top Gun is gay” speech in “Sleep With Me.” In short, it’s the sort of party I’d want to be at, even if it meant the world was about to end.
However, we never see any of those people again. And while the road trip gives us a couple of inspired asides- a survivalist compound run by Derek Luke, as well as the Bennigan’s-like restaurant that used the impending armageddon as an opportunity to become a druggy, orgiastic cult in what’s by far the movie’s best idea- the remainder of the film is simply a weepy, by-the-numbers romance, sprinkled liberally with daddy issues.
If you can get past the nearly two-decade age difference, Carell and Knightley are both decent, and the chemistry isn’t awful. Both, without spoiling much, are looking for something they really want, and the way those things are resolved are less than satisfactory. And among other problems, the movie completely punts on any consideration of the religious aspects of the apocalypse.
A lot of movies the last couple of years have contrasted romance with the possibility of apocalypse, and one of last year’s best movies- Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia”- was set against the backdrop of the impending end of the world. ‘Seeking a Friend’ has its charms, but isn’t quite in that class.