Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is a film that ends up ranking relatively high on the list of the best movies of the season, more by default than by design. So far, summer 2012 hasn’t actually seen very many good films, apart from perhaps a superhero crossover and maybe the odd Pixar venture, but hopefully the disappointment won’t carry over to the end of the summer, considering two of the big guns are all set to fire in July. In the meantime, while I wouldn’t necessarily tell you to rush out and see this film, you don’t have all that much to lose if you find yourself with nothing to do on a weekday morning and decide to stroll over to an AMC theatre to watch a relatively inexpensive showing the way I did.
With that said, Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World is a conceptually interesting yet inherently flawed tale of, well, exactly what the title suggests. The apocalypse is unavoidable, people are living out their last days in whichever way they choose, and the odd pairing of Steve Carell and Keira Knightley are on a journey to get back to the ones they love before it’s all over.
The problem? It’s a film with a very concrete premise that doesn’t exactly allow you to stray very far from certain themes that would seem rather obvious, but the film does so anyway, trying to make light of the situation at first, before scrambling back to more somber and serious territory a little way in. But by then of course, it might have been too little too late.
The film opens with a radio broadcast about the failure of mankind’s final attempt to thwart the impending apocalypse, followed by Steve Carell’s wife literally getting out of the car and running away from him, without much other context to go along with it. Along the way, the film introduces minor characters played by Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, and a host of other actors known for their comedic talents, before drastically shifting back and forth between ‘sort of funny’ and ‘sort of serious’ for a good forty-five minutes, before finally taking a sharp turn towards what seemed like it was supposed to be completely serious, but felt more like a romantic comedy with the funny bits cut out.
Carell and Knightley actually have a surprisingly good chemistry, and the dialog their share, while rather inconsequential, is at the very least interesting to watch. But beyond that, and a minor appearance by a well known, older actor later on, the film doesn’t really have all that much going for it.
The outcome of the lead duo’s friendship is predictable from the start, but is played off like some kind of big secret, or perhaps the film was made for people who had never seen a movie before, I’m not quite sure. And whenever the film sets itself up to go in one direction, it almost always manages to do a 180, eventually leaving a number of important story points either only partially resolved, or left untouched altogether.
Carell plays a great depressed guy, and Knightley is constantly in the verge of tears as always, and while these two are fine, fine actors, they didn’t seem to have much to work with beyond the superficiality the film chose to work with against a backdrop that had so much more potential for great storytelling.
In the end, the film tries very hard to have some kind of hopeful tone to it, but ends up being horribly depressing for all the wrong reasons. I know I’ve always said the job of a film is to make you feel something, but I wouldn’t say what I felt at the end of Seeking A Friend was due to its success as a film, but rather by accident, or by plain ignorance towards the subject matter even. At some point, somebody should have told the people involved that when you’re making a movie about the end of the world, you’re making a movie about THE END OF THE WORLD.
All in all, I suppose it isn’t a bad film, even if it does end up working against itself more often that not. But like I said, it doesn’t feel like the film it should have been,