Synopsis: As an asteroid called Matilda nears Earth, Dodge (Steve Carrell) finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is his kooky English neighbour Penny (Keira Knightley) who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Watching Keira Knightly “act” is like watching a duck try to do algebra; they always look confused, the whole process never feels natural and no one enjoys the experience. I tend to enjoy watching her “act” as much as I enjoy having to re-paint my garden wall every year. Conversely I bloody love Steve Carrell and have ever since comedy right hook left hook of Anchorman and Forty Year Old Virgin. So I was in two minds about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.
On the one hand it was a black comedy about the end of the World, with Steve Carrell, ably supported by a bunch of actors and actresses who I like very much (Martin Sheen, Rob Corddry, Adam Brody) and written/directed by the lady behind the oh-so awesome Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Put those all in the plus column. On the other hand it had Keira Knightly (noooooo) doing “kooky” (nooooooooo) comedy (arrrrghhhhhhhhhhhhhh). While that one huge factor in the con column nearly sunk it I thought to persevere. And I am glad I did.
How would you spend your last 21 days on Earth if you knew for certain the world was going to end? Partying with friends, strangers and anyone with a pulse? Cuddled up with your family? Drowning your sorrows in a bathtub full of booze and opiates? Maybe you’d live your life as normally as possible, continue to mow the lawn and keep the bed made. If there’s one universal truth though it is this: no one wants to die alone. In Seeking……(I can’t be bothered to write it in full every time) Steve Carrell just wants someone to cuddle when the End of Days arrives. That someone turns out to be his kooky neighbour Penny. Oh, and a scruffy little dog called Sorry that someone dumps on him.
Now on paper the idea of pairing Carrell and Knightly as a romantic couple and making me swallow it is ludicrous. But for Seeking… it that mismatch works in it’s favour. Because if it came down to it and we were all facing certain oblivion, any sense of normal perspective would be lost. Heightened emotional situations make people do and say things that in any other situation they may not. So never did I feel like the combination of those characters in the context of the situation was unbelievable. I just didn’t believe there was any sense of spark or chemistry between Carrell and Knightly as two performers.
Steve Carrell has two things. 1. The worlds saddest smile, and 2. a gift for playing characters that are so sadly idealistic you want to punch them and then hug them. The genius of Michael Scott in the Office was while you thought he was a total douche you couldn’t help but love him because you knew he was just desperately sad and lonely. He brings the right mixture of Michael Scott and Dan from Dan In Real Life. As for Keira Knightly I found her just the right side of tolerable. I stand by my original point, which was every time she opened her mouth I felt like I was watching her act. It took me out of the moment and it annoyed me. But in her defence I don’t think that was her fault. The role required someone who could do naturally kooky and for narrative reasons evidently come from somewhere far away from where she was currently. They didn’t need to be the only British person in the whole film, meaning she just stuck out like a sore thumb. Personally, I can think of a number of American actresses who would have done much better with the role and not felt so forced. Top of that list would be Zooey Deschenal (is that how you spell it?). She does kooky really well, almost to a point of being annoying, and I fell would have been a much better fit. Even Elizabeth Banks can do crazy off the wall pretty damn well, and is cute as a button.
As for the film itself, it definitely thrived in the first 2 thirds. The opening 30 minutes in particular had me in hysterics at times. The film has a lot of fun exploring how people would cope with the idea that actions no longer had consequences. Tell you kids to go fuck themselves? Sure, who cares! Watching middle class couples have a house party where someone brings heroin like it’s a bit of weed was a highlight. Top spot though goes to the short but hilarious scene in local bar Friendsies, where everyone is super, super, reealllllly friendly if you know what I mean. You’ll feel let down by the service next time you go to TGI Fridays is all I’m going to say. There are also some brilliant moments of people going about normal chores like mowing their lawn or calling about Armageddon Insurance. As a Brit I can appreciate the idea of stoically going about your daily business in the face of impending doom.
The last third suffers from a weird dilemma. Finishing a movie about the end of the world to some degree writes itself. Weirdly though that almost makes it harder to finish because writing a black comedy where the world is obliterated at the end doesn’t leave much in the way of a happy ending. I won’t spoil it, but the fact I felt like it finished with a bit of a whimper would be a harsh criticism to lay solely at the feet of Write/Director Lorraine Scafaria. I don’t know how I would have ended it differently.
Overall this was enjoyable in spite of Keira Knightly trying to do quirky comedy. Watch it for everything else.
Taglines: The first comedy about the end of it all
Director/Writer: Lorraine Scafaria
Cast: Steve Carrell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen, Mark Moses, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry
- Dodge: I just can’t spend the last month of my life getting to know someone. It’s ridiculous.
Diane: You don’t like Karen?
Dodge: I couldn’t possibly give a shit. I am not gonna sit across from someone and hear all their stories, even if she was someone I could be interested in, because I just… I’m not sure that the month between my wife leaving me and the end of the world sounds like good timing. Do you?
- Warren: This isn’t the fucking ark, Diane! This is the Titanic! And there is not a life raft in sight
- Warren: Put on some Radiohead. I want to do heroin to Radiohead.
- Steve Carell and Nancy Carell, who play husband and wife briefly in this film, are husband and wife in real life.
Streaming on BlinkBox and Sky Movies