Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Lorene Scafaria sets herself a lofty goal for her directorial debut; writing a character rom-com about emotional feelings connected to an imminent end of the world. The same subject was exploited before by 1998 Canadian movie Last Night and by Lars von Trier’s Melancholia.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World begins with the news of a space mission failure to blow up an oncoming meteor; there’s only 21 days left until the end of the world. At this point we meet Dodge (Steve Carell) whose wife, on hearing news of the end of the world, runs away from her loveless marriage. After some days of real apathy, Dodge meets his bohemian neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley), who sleeps a lot, records vinyl records and misses her family who lives in England.
The film starts well with a sort of apocalypse suspense, and the early scenes capture a believable city on the verge of collapse, but turns quickly into a hybrid between Lost in Translation and Garden State. The problem with the movie is that it is too focused on the main characters, without spending enough energy showing what might be happening in the 21 days leading up to the end of the world.
There are some brilliant ideas and occasional cameos, but nothing is considered enough to really connect. Moreover, both actors seem really awkward soul mates and they never really click. Their physical presences are really mismatches, with a considerable age gap and a completely different acting style, with Carell looking almost narcoleptic for the first half of the movie.
Scafaria, who also adapted the script for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist and apparently has a penchant for love stories about mismatched couples thrown together by the inexplicable alchemy of destiny. As in her first film, she makes a clever use of music trying to fill the film’s romantic credibility with The Hollies’ The Air That I Breathe and two songs by The Walker Brothers.
The film has wit to spare and also an irresistible melancholy that could have been better channeled. However, Scafaria wanted a kind of inexpressive acting from Carell and that does not help to pull all the elements together as a meaningful whole, or to create a true romantic comedy worth the end of the world.
The film will be released in the UK on July 13 and you can watch the trailer here: