Film Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
I have a love/hate relationship with Steve Carell.
I love that he’s generally not in anything too awful and is handsome in an awkward way (but normal awkward. Not Kristen Stewart or Jesse Eisenberg, “can’t actually act like human beings” awkward).
And I hate that I don’t find him awful or ugly.
I need fodder, Steven. I can’t complain about you if you don’t throw yourself into some steaming garbage for me. Gosh, do I have to do everything myself?
Luckily, Keira Knightley has brought her vague sexuality and protruding bones along this time. Now that I can pick on.
TL;DR Warm performances from the 2 leads help distract from the surprisingly bland plot (considering it’s the apocalypse, you know?). 2 out of 5 stars.
Oh, and JK on Keira. She covers that shit up by pretending to be an Olsen twin/homeless lady.
So as you can probably guess from the title, the plot is about the world ending. An asteroid is going to destroy Earth in 3 weeks’ time. Steve Carell’s wife leaves him, and we see his life is boring. He meets Keira Knightley, a fellow tenant of their apartment building. Once the apocalyptic rioting begins, Steve and Keira set off to find her a way back to England to be with her family, and to find his lost love. Obviously, neither of these things come to pass and our heroes fall in love with each other.
The main downfall of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is the wishy-washy tone of the movie. I had a fair expectation of some dark comedy mixed with some earnest laughs mixed with some morbidity, but there’s never any balance. Carell tries to lend some down-to-earth earnestness to the wackier scenes, but then the movie will shift and become uncomfortably morose (the scene where Connie Britton comes onto him is an example of that).
This clashes completely with the preceding, almost slapstick nature of the dinner party (the dad encouraging his young children to chug martinis, for instance).
Then by the end, the comedy is gone altogether and the movie is suddenly a tragic love story that happens to star comedy’s favourite everyman.
But hey, Carell and Knightley mesh well together. And the first act of the movie is suitably solid. I will expect children chugging cocktails in my apocalypse movies from now on.
Why I hate this movie:
Don’t sell me a Steve Carell comedy romp with some human drama then completely yank out the comedy. I’ve already seen Dan In Real Life.
Carell himself doesn’t escape all the blame. His character seems frustratingly dedicated to not enjoying anything. He comes around by the end, but it takes a lot of Manic Pixie Dream Girl-ing from Keira to get him there.
The sub plot about his daddy issues has no weight to it. Poor Martin Sheen just gets dropped in at the end for an awkward cameo so Carell’s melancholy doesn’t come off as too grating. It isn’t very effective (that’s right, I know Pokemon).
I was really hoping the movie wouldn’t cop out and have Carell and Keira fall in love. Sigh.
Carell decides Keira is the love of his life (uses those exact words) despite having only been in her company for less than 2 weeks. This also derails the major plot line about him finding his old flame (who he completely passes over for Keira without even speaking to her). Malignant plot tumor to the extreme.
Keira gets off with some pretty bad behaviour. She intentionally withholds Carell’s mail when it’s accidentally sent to her. She has no justification for this at all, and she just lols in his face when he gets mad at her about it.
Oh, and Keira just ditches her boyfriend (a scruffy Adam Brody) in the middle of the riot and drives off with Carell. She flippantly brings up her abandonment of him later, but nobody seems to be bothered by it (and his presumed death) at all.
Reasons to watch:
If there’s one thing that this movie does well it’s stuffing in a bunch of genuinely funny moments.
The interactions with Carell and his maid are a wonderful combination of humour and emotion. He tries to tell her that she doesn’t need to keep coming to her job as the world is going to end, but she keeps coming anyway. Not out of ignorance, but simply to just keep doing what she’s been doing. After sending Keira off to her family and resigning himself to dying alone, he returns home to find the maid there, as usual. Too sweet.
The party that Carell goes to at his friends’ house near the beginning is what I think apocalyptic life would look like. They’re all formerly-sane adults who are happily swinging and whipping out heroin at a dinner party.
Melanie Lynskey comes to the party wearing “everything she never wore,” which includes a fabulous tiara. I’d do it.
Carell and Keira’s meal at Friendsy’s delivers on the snippet we saw in the trailer. All the staff are high as fuck, and start having an orgy on our heroes’ table.
Carell gets drunk off window cleaner at one point. I’d do it.
Jerry from Parks and Recreation has a small role as a kindly police officer.
Best line goes to this wonderfully flat delivery from Keira after Carell invites her into his apartment when she’s crying outside the window: “I won’t steal anything if you don’t rape me.” It was always true love.
After waking up on the plane, Keira turns it around to be with Carell as the asteroid hits. It told you it was true love.
Yeah, there are some flashes of delightful, end of the world goodness. But in between it’s flat and unimpressive. Much like Keira Knightley’s chest. Oh! 2 out of 5 stars.