‘Somebody, Somebody, Can anybody find me somebody to love?’ -Queen
The “End of the World” movie has become such an overplayed scenario over the last decade. Maybe it’s the fact that the Mayan calendar predicted that the apocalypse will greet us in just a few short months, or perhaps it’s just the scare of global warming slowly melting the Arctic circle. It could be that LeBron James finally won a NBA Championship, so a global catastrophe really doesn’t seem out of the question.
For whatever the reason, between ‘The Day After Tomorrow,’ ‘2012,’ ‘The Core,’ ’28 Days Later,’ ‘Sunshine,’ not to mention ‘Deep Impact’ and ‘Armageddon’ (which are, by the way, the same exact movie), I’ve just grown tired of all the doom and gloom that we’re seeing on the silver-screen these days. Can you blame me?
Does anyone remember the Los Angeles Super Tornadoes in ‘The Day After Tomorrow’? What was that all about?
Despite my jet lag from watching our planet become ruin time and time again, I decided to take a chance and go see ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.’ I love Steve Carrell. I love Keira Knightley. I love dark comedy, and I was hoping that this movie would be a different perspective on Earth’s swan song.
Not all romantic comedies begin by telling you that a giant asteroid is going to destroy the world in just a few short weeks. Then again, ‘Seeking a Friend…’ is unlike any romance that you have ever seen before. Half-sarcastic comedy, half-touching love story, this movie is one-hundred percent original, and thank the Lord for that.
The film, like most love stories, centers around our two lead characters. Our hero, played wonderfully by Steve Carrell, is Dodge. Dodge’s wife abandons him in the very first scene of the movie. After hearing the news that the planet is a ticking time-bomb, she simply gets out of the car and runs away. Unlike his closest friends and family, who are determined to ring in the apocalypse with partying and anarchy, Dodge wants something more out of his last living days. He ends up going through old photo albums and letters, reminiscing about his old high school sweetheart; his first love. Dodge decides to forgo the fireworks and self-deprecating festivities in order to find his long lost love and declare his undying devotion to her, and of course, do this before the clock strikes midnight.
Dodge’s next-door neighbor is a young woman named Penny (played by Knightley). Penny is a quirky, neurotic, pot-smoking head case who became even more unglued once she heard about the giant meteor… asteroid… whatever. She loves old records, hates her failing relationship, and can sleep through anything. Filled with regret about the time she has spent away from her family in the UK, Penny is heart-broken that she couldn’t get home before all of the airports were shut down.
One night, a riot breaks out near Dodge and Penny’s apartment building. Dodge rushes to make sure that Penny gets out of the building, and while on the run, they strike an agreement. If Penny will help Dodge find his first love, then Dodge will make sure that Penny can get on a plane to see her family one last time. They set on the road, and the audience watches as their adventure unfolds.
I love it when I walk into a theater expecting an average movie, and end up walking out with something twenty-times better than what I expected. ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ is a film that I wanted to see again right when the credits rolled (and also couldn’t wait to write about), because the film itself did something similar to a magic trick. It opens in dark, nihilistic fashion, leaving the audience to believe that it’s all down hill from the start. But on the contrary, from the first five minutes until the last shot, ‘Seeking a Friend…’ gradually uplifts the audience to an emotional conclusion, while also wrestling with themes of contentment and true happiness.
This next part may seem like a stretch, but just stick with me on this one.
In my mind, the movie itself is really a microcosm of how humanity deals with mortality and death, and the remaining life that Dodge and Penny have is simply an allegory of life as we know it. The story is pointing out that in reality, our time on this planet is short, and it is what we choose to do with that short amount of time that really defines us. By making a movie about what happens when we realize that our world is collapsing, writer/director Lorene Scafaria was able to show us what is most important. Love, friendship, and at the end of the day, having someone by your side.
Like in life, at the beginning our characters have goals that they want to achieve. They spend their time fighting and searching for the right path to get them where they want to be. But, there comes a point where Dodge and Penny realize that what they were searching for was right in front of them all along (cue romantic music).
I don’t want to ruin the ride for anyone, so I will simply close with a quick observation about how ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World’ was received by the critical masses.
Film critics will choose any number of reasons to give a movie a bad review. It could be that it didn’t end the way they felt would be appropriate, or it could be the way it was shot or written. It can honestly be something as simple as the characters not being ‘likable’. And this is why you can’t hold out too much on what the critics think: in the end, it’s really just a collaboration of slightly-snarky and cynical opinions. I honestly believe that this movie received mixed reviews because it made critics feel something they didn’t want to feel, and made more importantly, showed man as something that they didn’t believe to be true.
It painted man as having the potential for goodness in a world that was all going down the tubes. It showed two people that could fall in love in just a few short days. It boldly stated that love conquers even death, and that is something incredibly counter cultural. And what can I say; I’m a lover, not a hater. So, when it comes to feel-good movies, it’s my practice to not listen to the critics. They’re all sad and lonely anyway.
Just kidding, Roger Ebert. I’m still interested in writing that book with you. Your move, Ebert.
My Note: The most surprising movie of the summer. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll enjoy.
My Grade: A-