Pre-apocalyptic films tend to be thrillers: Yikes, the world is about to end -- how can we escape or avert imminent disaster?
But Lorene Scafaria's Seeking a Friend for the End of the World strikes a different chord: one that is wistfully romantic, a little melancholy and unexpectedly funny.
Not fall-out-of-your-chair funny. But unexpectedly funny nonetheless: Within this obviously downbeat setting, people go on with their lives -- or step out of their lives -- in ways that are human and, as a result, amusing.
Written and directed by Scafaria (who wrote Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, an underrated and low-key little millennial rom-com), Seeking a Friend, which opens Friday, is about just that: the last-minute quest to connect. Connection feels like life, even in the face of certain death.
Steve Carell plays Dodge, an insurance salesman who is still going to work and answering the phone, despite the fact that the TV news has just announced the world is about to end. A gigantic meteor is going to strike Earth, causing a cataclysm, and all efforts by Earthlings to deflect or destroy the meteor have now proven futile. So -- buh-bye.
Dodge isn't a quitter but he's not exactly a go-getter, at least not until a moment of revelation (or two). The first involves his wife, who runs away with a lover Dodge was unaware of. The second involves a cute neighbor in his apartment building, Penny (Keira Knightley), who's been accidentally receiving Dodge's mail for more than a year but has neglected to mention it (because the two of them have never actually met).
But he helps her out (she's dumping her faithless boyfriend played by Adam Brody) and finds the fateful piece of mail. It's from his high-school girlfriend, the only woman he's ever really loved, the one that got away. She wrote him before the end was conclusive, hoping to possibly connect, if he's free.
So Dodge and Penny take off in a car -- she, promising to help him track down the old girlfriend; he, promising to help her find a way back to England to see her family before Doomsday.
At which point Seeking a Friend turns into a road movie, in which this unlikely pair -- the sparkly Penny, the downbeat Dodge -- traverse the eastern Seaboard in hopes of accomplishing their mission. Their modes of transportation keep changing, but their quest never varies.
These journeys, of course, are never about the trip itself as much as the interior voyage each character makes.
This review continues on my website.