Earlier this year there was "Melancholia", the ambitious and at times entertaining but also pretentious take on "the end of the world" as envisioned by director Lars von Trier, and now we get a completely different perspective on the very same topic, as written and directed by Lorene Scafaria.
"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" (95 min.) starts off brilliantily. In the first minute of the movie we see Dodge (played by Steve Carell) and his wife sitting in the car, listening to the radio announcement that asteroid 'Matilda' cannot be stopped and will hit earth in 3 weeks, ending life as we know it. Dodge's wife looks at him, and then leaves the car, literally running away from him. What a beginning! Dodge eventually meets Penny (played by Kiera Knightley), and regardless of their age difference, they strike a friendship. Dodge and Penny hit the road, among others to look up Dodge's HS sweetheart and to find a plane for penny so she can rejoin her family in England. I don't want to give away much more of the plot, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out, but let's just say things don't pan out exactly as Dodge and Penny thought they would.
This is an outstanding movie from start to finish. In the midst of all the numbing summer blockbusters that Hollywood unleaches upon us, here's actually a movie that actually speaks to me. At times I laughed, at times I teared up, and the movie went by in the blink of an eye. I don't know that Steve Carell has ever been better than here, playing the "Joe Six-Pack" average guy with even more restraint (and that's a compliment). Kudos also to Kiera Kightley. Likewise for the oustanding soundtrack (I may never listen to the Hollies "The Air That I Breathe" in the same way again). But the ultimate credit must go to writer-director Lorene Scafaria, making her directing debut here. Can't wait to see what she will do next. Meanwhile, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" is HIGHLY, HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
on November 10, 2012
I rented this movie thinking it was going to be a silly dark comedy. While it did have its light moments, a comedy this movie is not. I was moved to tears and I could not get it out of my head. I thought about it, applied it to my life. Cried again. I ended up watching this movie 3 more times before buying it.
If you want to have a lighthearted slapstick comedic experience, maybe you should pass on Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, this is not for you. The second half of the movie is emotional and touching. I have to say, I fell in love with Steve Carell, his performance was incredible.
on July 5, 2012
The trend for today's movies is to reveal the entire plot from start to finish including all the best lines compressed into a 2 minute 30 second trailer. The trailer for this film is awesome - fast paced, great music track (we're on a road to nowhere), and really funny. Well all of that stuff happens in about the first 20 minutes of the film. Then this focus/Indian paintbrush film settles into an examination of two questions: What if you found out you had 21 days to live? Along with the rest of humankind?
The basic plot of this movie is: man with long history of woman problems gives up on romance after his wife leaves him and he finds out the world is coming to an end, people try unsuccessfully to set him up, he meets a much younger female neighbor who has a sleep disorder and awful judgment in men, they pick up a dog and go on a road trip each on a quest for that one last thing they want to do in this life. And they get to really know each other along the way.
It is at times serious and contemplative and other times shifts to gallows humor. The exterior world which starts out with crowds and rioting fades away as the film progresses to focus solely on one man and one woman. The relationship that builds over the course of the movie between the main characters, Dodge and Penny, along with the dog they pick up along the way dubbed Sorry, is sweet and believable.
If you like Steve Carell's brand of humor or films that cut past the BS and examine the stuff that matters, give this one a try.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is an odd, quirky and touching film. It is NOT a raucous comedy (despite the presence of Steve Carrell and folks like Rod Cordry), but it is pretty funny throughout. It is NOT a romance in a traditional sense, yet it is an unusual love story.
The movie starts as the world learns that the last efforts to stop a huge asteroid from slamming into it have failed. Three weeks is all the planet has remaining. Immediately upon hearing the doomsday proclamation, Steve Carrell's wife leaves him. We learn their marriage hasn't been great for a long time...but the sudden abandonment leaves Carrell a bit stunned. We sense he has probably been unhappy for a long time, because he continues to go through the motions of his life even as chaos slowly descends around him. It's as though the world has finally caught up to HIS condition...fatalistic and seeing no real reason to care about anything.
Then he meets his next door neighbor (Keira Knightley) a British girl who has just broken up with her boyfriend, and with the end of the world coming, wishes she could get back to Britain to see her parents one last time (which is tough, because airlines are grounded). The two head out into the world, with Carrell offering to get Knightley to someone he knows that owns a plane...and her offering to help him find his "first love"...the girl that got away.
Along the way they have many amusing encounters...most notably at a Chili's-like restaurant that has decided to "get creative" with its menu. They encounter zaniness, they encounter suicide, and they encounter families that are simply together to enjoy their last few days of beauty and togetherness. And not surprisingly, a bond grows between these two unlikely companions.
This is a thoughtful and sad movie. Yes, there were plenty of funny moments, but writer/director Lorene Scafaria is interested in much more. Trying to make a movie about the end of the world is daunting. HOW would people act? What kinds of crazy things would happen? Scafaria has actually come up with a wide variety of possibilities and she gives us little peeks at each of those, mostly through Carrell's bemused and sad eyes. (The best is his maid, who keeps coming to work and gets upset when Carrell tells her she doesn't need to clean his apartment anymore.) But in the end, her wry, funny and sometimes affecting musings on how human along America's east coast might react in the face of the apocalypse are only background to the plight of her two leads. Their problems, in the great scheme of things, are pretty small...but we learn to care for each of them deeply.
There is the potential for quite a "creepiness" factor in partnering Carrell and Knightley. But Carrell gives one of his best "serious" performances here, and although Knightley is occasionally a bit antic and scattered, she generally matches him. Their relationship, as it progresses, feels logical and right...and we root for them, even as we might worry that Carrell is becoming a bit too much like a Woody Allen character (as in, interested in women far too young). They make it work as best as a relationship like this could work.
And in the end, I found the movie to be surprisingly effective and touching. Clearly, this movie will not be for everyone (as its poor box office performance attests), because it is very unconventional in many ways. But I liked it very much because it WAS surprising. Scafaria was bursting with ideas for this film, yet it never feels cluttered. She is able to make most of her observations or assumptions quickly and adroitly. The film is also full of cameos from some great actors (Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Derek Luke, William Petersen and especially Melanie Lynskey, who is terrific in her little role)...each of these experienced performers (and more) are skillful enough to take their brief moments and make something of them...to add to the experience rather than just creating "oh, look, he's in the movie" moments. SEEKING A FRIEND... is a low-key delight, original, well-acted, well-written, funny and affecting. Highly recommended!
on July 20, 2012
As soon as I saw the title for this movie, I knew it was going to be a great film. It's really an exploration of Existentialism. Whether we die from a meteor crashing into the Earth or we live out our lives in peace and good health - we all must eventually die. So this film is really the sped-up version of the important responsible decisions and acts of genuine authenticity that we have to face in our lives.
There's two things you'll find interesting in this film. One is how others around the central characters deal with their imminent demise. There's nihilistic hedonism. There's people who simply cannot process what's happening and just carry on with their now meaningless lives (that is, acting in "bad faith"). There's the anti-humanist, devout believer who's content in their prison cell - satisfied that the world is finally coming to an end. There's people who commit shocking suicides, and those that hire someone else to put them out of their misery. It's not exactly a comedy. Like Dodge's friend's wife tells him, "You're not getting out of this one."
The second thing that you'll find interesting is how Dodge finds a type of "salvation" inside all this doom. And I won't spoil that for you, but I'll just say that it's going to require an active, authentic decision on his part about how he wants to spend his last moments.
Also, thank-you so much to the film's writer(s) for not chickening out and giving this movie a fake, "Hollywood", happy ending. I highly recommend this movie. It will wake you up to life and its amazing possibilities.
P.S. ultimately, Existentialism is a failed philosophy, but that doesn't make it a bad one. The last half of the 20th century was filled with European (Continental) philosophers explaining exactly *how* Existentialism is failed. But I will leave that as an exercise to the truly curious and thoughtful.
on October 30, 2012
I was not originally planning on writing a review for this movie, but I really thought it was a good movie, well worth watching, so I wanted to do my part to get the star count up. The movie is kind of a mix between a black comedy and a tragic romance. The movie lacks a single tone. Some might say that this movie lacks unity, or that it does not know what it wants to be, but it struck just the right chord for me. I think the combination is perfect.
It seems like I rarely really laugh at comedies anymore, but this movie had some truly hilarious moments. It opens with a radio announcement that the last mission to save humanity from an asteroid hurtling toward the earth has failed, but that the radio station is going to continue bringing their listeners a countdown to the apocalypse, along with all their favorite classic rock hits. That opening sets the tone for the first part of the movie and all the absurd behavior of the human race in the face of their imminent demise. Highlights from the comedy side of the film include the relationship between Dodge (Steve Carrell) and his housekeeper, and the scene in the Friendly's (whoever the actor was who played the host did a brilliant job). I rarely see comedy that I think is this good, but this movie is more than just a comedy.
Now I must give my SPOILER ALERT. The rest of the movie is about the relationship that forms between Dodge (Steve Carrell) and Penny (Keira Knightly) as they attempt to track down Dodge's high school sweetheart and get Penny back to England to see her family. In some ways we have seen this part of the movie before. The two strangers who set out on a mission together, both looking for something, but who wind up finding each other instead. While this is somewhat of a formula, it is a formula I happen to like, and I think this movie did a good job with it. There is also a story about Dodge's father who apparently abandoned him when he was young and their reconciliation which adds an emotional layer to the film. Dodge and Penny wind up spending their last days together, and I am glad the movie did not back away at the last minute from the end of the world. The last scene, I thought, was particularly well done. The romance may not be entirely believable, but I am inclined to suspend my disbelief for this movie, since I think the rest of the movie works so well.
I think the movie might also be viewed as a meditation on what is really important in life. There are so many people hanging on to things (jobs, relationships, old wounds, etc.) that they are not really happy with. This movie, by forcing people to decide how they want to spend their last three weeks, also forces them to decide what is important to them. There is a scene on the beach, where a group of strangers have gathered and are just having a good time, that I think makes a point also made in Ecclesiastes "All is vanity. So eat, drink, and be merry" (I am paraphrasing). We all return to dust, so there is nothing to do but enjoy life. That seems to me, anyways, to be one of the messages of the movie.
I have to say, the only thing that really mystified me about the movie (I remind everyone my SPOILER ALERT is in effect) was the decision to have the asteroid hit a week earlier than expected. It seems ridiculous to think that the scientists would have been off by a week. I could understand if it served some purpose in the plot but, as far as I can tell, it does not. So why ask the viewer to believe something so implausible if there is no purpose? If anyone can shed some light on this particular aspect of the movie I would love to hear it. It is not really a big deal. It certainly did not ruin the movie for me. I just do not understand it.
In summary, I will say that I think this is one of the better movies I have seen in awhile. It has quite a few laughs, but has a serious side as well. It is a sad story, but avoids getting overly heavy. If this movie had just been a comedy I do not think I would have liked it as much, and if it had just been a sad love story I also do not think I would have liked it nearly as much, but the combination worked just right for me. Perhaps it will work just right for you as well...
on October 23, 2012
This movie is optimistic about the power of love and forgiveness - even if the end of the world is at hand. This movie is more than a romantic comedy. Some moments are poignant drama, others will make you laugh, and some may even draw a tear. Its plot is simple enough, but leaves one to ponder what is most important in life. I loved the mini-adventure, that drew laughs from truly humorous moments and circumstances rather than going for cheap jokes or slapstick. I'm so glad that I watched it. I have only praise for the quality of this movie.
on June 16, 2013
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World by Lorene Scafaria has become one of my favorite movies. This jewel of creative thought was shamelessly pulled from the theaters before it could find an audience. Drivel and schlock fill the cineplex and apparently there's no room for something different. The early reviews were mixed and mostly centered on what it wasn't, causing its early ouster. I feel compelled to defend what it is.
This is a darkly comic yet heartfelt look at other side of a pending apocalypse. Blockbusters like Armageddon tell what our bigger than life heroes might do to save the day, but what about the rest of us, just waiting for the end? What do we do? What would you do?
The story is about a sad sack who laments his misspent life and flighty homesick free spirit, thrown together in the final days. Each deciding to help the other they embark on a quest to find his lost love and get her back home. The genius is in their encounters and the back round satire, both subtle and not. The last third is for anyone with a beating heart and the ending is spot on perfect.
I found the critiques totally off the mark. One complaint was about its "jarring tonal shifts." Yes, the end of the world can be a bit unnerving. Some didn't like Steve Carell, but nobody plays a deflated sole better. And there is no shortage of Keira Knightley detractors. Well, they are just flat out wrong. Think Keira and Steve don't belong together? They don't. That is entirely the point. This movie makes you feel. It makes you think. It gets more captivating with every viewing. And that, my friends, is the true essence of art.
Watch it and let its slow burn win you over and then afterward see if you don't ask yourself, what you would do?
I went into this movie, with no expectations. I had heard almost less than nothing about it, except for a vague description. I love apocalyptic movies and books, so knowing this took place in a world that was about to end...fascinated me.
I love Steve Carrell, both as a comedian and a dramatic actor. Keira,I had a love hate relationship with until I realized how adaptable and effortless she can change her roles and be just as comfortable in merchant ivory as well as quirky comedy. A true chameleon,a versatile actress.
This is probably one of the most truthful movies I have ever seen about the end of the world, and how people/society would react. Just as we all are different in how we handle stress or loss or being spontaneous..so shall we all have varying paths to take when death is inevitable. There will be riots, and panic, desperation, fear, sadness. Some people will have massive amounts of energy and go seek everything they always wanted to do. Some will shut themselves inside and deny its all happening. Some will want to kill themselves, or do really dangerous things that would otherwise be thought of as illegal, or morally wrong.
Its a free for all. So what does a man who never felt free in a pre-asteroid world do? His wife leaves him as soon as the news tells of the harbinger of death. He still goes to work because what else is there? His world is empty, meaningless ...but below that surface is a want to tie things up with lost family, lost loves, the loss of himself. In that journey he is joined by a young woman who is also seeking a way home, a way to love in the end. Throw in a dog named "sorry" and it was the perfect love story, honest and poignant.
on May 26, 2016
I'm not much on comedies, I mean they better be really, really good. This one really surprised me. It was basically a comedy, but... by the end it becomes something else entirely. The movie has a fascinating way of slowly shifting from pure comedy to pure drama, and SUCH a good ending. Anymore, movies suck so bad at their endings. This one let itself end naturally, perfectly. A well acted, silly and serious look at the end of the world. Nicely done.