‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ Review

Published 3 years ago by , Updated November 26th, 2014 at 7:00 pm,

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World starring Steve Carell Keira Knightley Review Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review

For those looking for counter-programming to the summer blockbuster season: this would be an enjoyable (if not spectacular) selection.

In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Steve Carell plays Dodge (note the name), a man who has gone through life as an emotionally-stunted cynic – which makes the announcement that the world is literally coming to end (due to an oncoming asteroid) quite an inconvenient event. Before Dodge can even process the doomsday proclamation, his wife Linda (played by Carell’s real-life wife, Nancy) runs off to spend her last days with the man she actually loves.

Left alone, heartbroken, and existentially vacant, Dodge fears that his own last days will be as much a waste as the rest of his life apparently was. Fate intervenes when downstairs neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) appears on Dodge’s fire escape in tears, lamenting her most recent breakup and the fact that she will also meet her end alone, so far away from her family back in England. With anarchy and rioting headed their way, Dodge and Penny make a pact: Penny will drive Dodge to see his unrequited true love one last time, and Dodge will hook Penny up with a pilot to fly her home.

But, as always, the journey to a desired destination veers into some unexpected (but possibly greater) detours of the heart and soul.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Steve Carell and Patton Oswalt Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the directorial debut of Lorene Scafaria, who is best known for writing the snappily-hip script for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (she also wrote the script for this film). As a first-timer, Scafaria shows a promising hand for scene composition and visual storytelling, while her script is enlivened by some interesting, insightful, and often amusing visions of what the world would truly look like, if the end were indeed nigh. Those hoping for any kind of sci-fi influence, don’t. The apocalyptic premise is just that – a premise – while the main story is totally in the vein of an indie rom-com.

Scene-for-scene, Seeking a Friend offers episodic stops along the journey that tend to please with much greater frequency than they disappoint. Some highlights are a mock T.G.I. Fridays that has become of macabre den of drug-fueled happiness; parties where the only rule is unbridled hedonism; or abandoned places where once-important things now sit forgotten. Aside from some interesting set-pieces, the people Penny and Dodge encounter on their way (opportunities for some hilarious celebrity cameos) encompass a range of personalities that provide fun insight into how various people would cope with the end of the world. From the hedonists, to the indifferent – from militant bomb shelter squatters to the recklessly desperate - arguably the film’s most engaging aspect is the sketch it provides of a world (and people) rapidly slipping into the shadow of death, and just trying to deal with that fact.

T.J. Miller and Gillian Jacobs in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review

T.J. Miller and Gillian Jacobs in ‘Seeking a Friend’

That Scafaria is able to handle such serious subject matter in such a lighthearted, witty kind of way is admirable: Even in the heavier parts of the film, emotion and drama is conveyed in carefully measured fashion – mostly by Carell, who pretty much carries the emotional core of the story on his shoulders. Knightley, on the other hand, plays such a quirky and free-spirited eccentric that even when the tears roll from her eyes, it’s hard to feel much emotional impact (the story quickly establishes Penny as the type to go from laughing to crying and back to laughing in the span of mere minutes, so dramatics are simply part of her personality matrix).

The lump-in-your-throat moments later in the film may fall flat for a lot of viewers, as it must be admitted that Dodge (and to lesser extent, Penny) are not the best-sketched main characters to ever appear on film. Carell and Knightley are an odd coupling (as are Dodge and Penny), and even when they strike up a strong chemistry, there is still the sense that something is off about the notion of this couple (inevitably) falling for one another – especially in such extreme circumstances. That is to say: the notion that Dodge and Penny would be one another’s end of the world choice for a soulmate never really comes off as believable.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley Review Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Review

Steve Carell and Keira Knightley in ‘Seeking a Friend’

Another issue is the fact that neither protagonist is ever presented as someone you want to “root for,” thereby making their romantic arch an exercise in simple observation rather than emotional investment. Dodge is dreary and detached from just about everything around him, while Penny is naive, flighty, and kind of all over the place in terms of what sort of person she is. Knightley jumps in with both feet and certainly demonstrates more personality than her usual rigid, period piece persona; but again, in terms of the writing, her character is a bit underserved by Scafaria’s script. Never a good thing when your main characters aren’t the most interesting things in the film.

Overall, only ardent fans of Carell, Knightley or Scafaria’s brand of refreshingly sharp wit and insight need go out and seek this film in theaters; it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you sought it out on the home video circuit. For those looking for counter-programming to the summer blockbuster season: this would be an enjoyable (if not spectacular) selection.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is now playing in theaters.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. That’s what she said!!
    i really miss him in the office

  2. Really wanted to see this. But it’s not out in the UK for three weeks. Which is annoying.

  3. Soooo, it’s basically a “rom-com”/drama movie with an overall predictable story and characters that I couldn’t give a toss about?
    Hmmmm… no thanks.

    • Not at all. I loved this movie. I rate it 4.5/5.

    • agreed. let me guess, searches for the one that got away, shes a bint, falls for the brit. OOOOOOOOOOOOOO AMAZING STORY.

    • You are so far off the mark.

  4. But, as always, the journey to a desired destination veers into some unexpected (but possibly greater) detours of the heart and soul.

  5. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this movie. I hope they screen this internationally.

  6. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about this movie. I hope they screen this internationally.

  7. From what I can tell, Carell is playing typical Carell again. Seems like his characters from movie to movie are interchangeable. It’s starting to wear thin, so I’ll probably wait for this on cable.

    • That is SO inaccurate on SO many levels…

      I an recommending this film to everyone I know – have seen it twice & will buy it to add to my (very considerable) film library as soon as it’s available.

      Carell was terrific in this film. The scene of him with his father, played by Martin Sheen, was amazing – he said it all with his eyes. Always thought he was a drolly funny guy but I’m so impressed with him as a serious actor.

      Do yourself a favor – shuck your preconceived notions & go see this film.

      • I just saw this film and I am so glad I didn’t fall for the words of this review. I loved it. I teared up. It was a rom com like none I’ve ever seen… I heartily recommend it to anyone in search of a decent movie to watch over the weekend. What I disagree with the most regarding the review was the criticism of Knightley’s character. I found Knightley’s delivery to outperform any inadequacies in her written character. I cried when she cried, and teared when she did. Lovely movie and a lovely performance.

  8. I loved it. Very different but then the circumstances were different…given this is the end of the world.
    Steve Carell is an excellent actor who says much with his eyes. Good film.

  9. I’ll give it…a miss. I’m pretty sure I’ll have something better to do with those minutes than watch Steve be flat and Kiera’s snarling smile.

    • Reviewing a film before actually even seeing it. Thank you for your helpful assessment.

      • Wow. What? You’re asking this guy to “brings some facts about what trashes you say,” then asking him to “do with style”? YOU’RE asking HIM to write his response… with a style YOU deem that HE lacks? That is the funniest thing I’ve read online this week. Thank you, Alba, thank you.

  10. I have to be honest, I was not expecting this much from Lorene Scafaria, the writer and director of this film. The last piece of work she put out there was Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and it bombed. However, with a movie as thought provoking and meaningful as this one I may have to forgive her for the past. I will be excited to see her next work and I hope she will do as good of a job as she did on this movie. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a movie you don’t want to end. While you can predict the ending and a lot of the plot, it’s a great story and you are always hoping in the back of your mind that it will not conclude. Steve Carell seems to be capable of playing anything these days, whether it’s Brick in anchorman, Cal from Crazy, Stupid, Love or Dodge from this film. He has shown that he can be the idiot, the family man, or out of touch just trying to find hope. Keira Knightley of course does a great job. If I had to rank actresses from today’s films, she would probably make my top ten list. The supporting cast is neither good nor bad, but with the story revolving around Carell and Knightley trying to cling to their last days on earth, the supporting cast doesn’t really matter. The film was great; the storyline was fantastic and what I like most of all is you leave the theater feeling that you need to do more with your life before it’s over.

    • You do know Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist WASN’T a bomb, right?

      • Nick and Norah’s Infinite playlist (my opinion) was one of the worst things I sat through in 2008, acting was bland, story was weak, and had could be more appropriately named Nick and Norah’s infinite plot hole.

  11. godawful movie. they could’ve done so much more.

  12. 17th best movie I have ever seen

  13. Infinite Playlist was a good fun film but not amazing. Steve Carrell was great in Dan In Real Life and that film was to and I’ve always felt that Steve Carrell needed to star in more serious to dramedy films then outright straight-up comedies like Date Night (which was just meh) and Dinnner For Schmucks (haven’t seen but i imagine there’s not much love for it).

  14. So the last time I saw a Keira Knightley movie I couldn’t even finish it because it was so bad (London Boulevard) but this one was much better. Although the tone shifts a little too dramatically a couple times, the movie’s charm and dark humor won me over, plus Steve Carell and Knightley actually surprised me by having some great chemistry. Carell really can do the sad-sack character well.

    One thing I was disappointed with was the music, especially considering this movie was from the creator of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist which is about as good as it gets when it comes to tunes. “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by The Beach Boys of course is awesome but has been used countless times already, so really the only song I was really thrilled with was “Sex Tourists” by French Kicks which ***SPOILER ALERT*** is the song that plays right when Dodge + Penny drive off after having sex. I was expecting more great under-the-radar tunes like this, but the movie was still good and I love French Kicks so much that their inclusion was almost enough to make up for it.

    • I actually liked the music a lot – I mean, for creativity, how long has it been since you’ve heard Herb Alpert’s ‘This Guy’s In Love With You’?? For me, I was a teenager…

      I thought Keira was outstanding in Never Let Me Go – as were Andrew Garfield & Carrie Mulligan. This is, I think, another very strong performance.

  15. I LOVED this movie. It was funny, sad, thought-provoking… Have seen it twice.

    I found the two main characters coming together in the end totally believable, given the circumstances and the way in which it was done. Now, if it had been a love at first sight kinda thing, that would not have worked. But the slowly unfolding of their stories, the dawning realization that this is well & truly it, the end, fini…and the need to have someone to hold onto in that time…

    Well, I thought it was wonderfully written & directed and VERY well-acted, esp on the part of Steve Carell. Don’t shoot me, but I think that’s a nuanced performance worthy of a look at Academy Award nomination time. (And, I see a LOT of movies)

  16. I definitely loved this movie. Went and saw it the first night it came out. Really cute. Couldn’t stop thinking about it. Made me extremely grateful for my life and all the people in it. Live every minute to the fullest cuz you never know when your time is up. Two thumbs up.

  17. Stuck inside as Hurricane Sandy did her thing. Rented this movie – as much as I wanted to enjoy it, it bored me. Never really took off, never really struck a nerve…….I give it a “D”.

  18. Depressing they should have killed themselves, i don’t need these feels