Here’s the thing about the end of the world: it’s inevitable. Either you live and die before it happens, or you perish like dinosaurs once that asteroid hits. It’s not fun to think about, and the likelihood of it happening in our lifetime is slim, but sometimes the things we don’t generally like to think about can create the most entertaining stories. That’s why we have horror films and romantic comedies, isn’t it?
But what if you know the End of Days is near? What would you stop to ask yourself, or who would you go out of your way to say farewell (or screw you) to? Staring down the barrel of that very gun in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is Dodge, a recently single insurance salesman played with a Droopy Dog-like charm by Steve Carell, a man whose whole adult life has been about making the right choices, staying safe, and never allowing himself to even tiptoe outside of his comfort zone. Dodge isn’t a Debby Downer, since he does try to connect with others like his best friend Warren (Rob Corddry) and his wife Diane (Connie Britton), but he does seem to have the air of a man who would say “well, of course this would happen.”
He goes to work like nothing has changed, taking calls from nervous clients demanding to know if the apocalypse is covered by their policies, and even makes attempts to find love before the final two weeks of life occur. But while Dodge does like conventions, he is emboldened to try something new and reconnect with his first love before the fateful asteroid hits. Enter Penny (Keira Knightley), Dodge’s young, pretty, lost-soul of a downstairs neighbor. She is a serial monogamist determined to make her way back home to England, but her romantic spirit rubs off on the jaded Dodge and he promises to get her to a plane in exchange for driving him to find his lost love. The two set out on an upstate New York journey, interacting with a cast of characters so bitter-sweetly hilarious that it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that this will be the first and last time everyone will meet.
This dark comedy is a rare treat in the end-of-world genre, and just whets the appetite for more from writer/director Lorene Scafaria. SEEKING A FRIEND avoids clichés and fits easily into the morose world last year’s similarly themed MELANCHOLIA established. These two people, who in another world would never have met, regardless of their close living proximity, grow closer and connect on a way that both wanted and needed. Penny’s romantic heart wears down Dodge’s grumpy shell, and surprisingly enough the wooden Knightley shines opposite Carell. They bob and weave together, and when their story nears its climax it is nearly impossible not to laugh through the tears. It’s also hard not to leave wondering what you would do with only two weeks left to live.