Rating: 4 stars out of 5
The Cast: Steve Carrell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen, Patton Oswalt
The Buzz: Where has Keira Knightley been? She's been keping a low profile for the past few years, appearing in relatively low key films instead of blockbusters. She makes a return to high profile fare alongside Steve Carrell in an unlikely comedic turn for her, which we haven't seen since her appearance in ‘Bend It Like Beckham’.
The Story: A seventy mile wide asteroid named Matilda is about to hit Earth and everyone has three weeks to live. Upon hearing the announcement on the radio while in the car with Dodge (Carrell), Dodge's wife, Linda runs away from him without saying a single word. People's lives are changed; guilt-free sex, drugs, the works. But not Dodge's.
However, he notices his neighbour, Penny (Knightley) crying by the fire escape because her boyfriend (now ex) has caused her to miss seeing her family in England for one last time. Penny later passes Dodge a stack of letters she had received on his behalf but forgotten to deliver, many of which contain stark revelations. His wife Linda has been having an affair and his first love, Olivia, whom he had been pining for recently, has written him a letter. Dodge has a way for Penny to fly back to England, but she helps him meet his first love, Olivia first. Together, they set on a life-ending journey...
inSing.com thinks: When we first caught wind of the movie, we thought it really sounded like ‘Armageddon’ without cringe-inducing love scenes, drilling and you know, Bruce Willis. We’re happy to report it's nothing like that but instead it is a rather charming and quirky movie about the fear of dying alone and relationships in general.
The biggest strength of the movie lies in its two leads. Steve Carrell plays Dodge, another of those "living a lie" type characters that are forced to change radically during the course of the movie. In this case, it's not just the emotional abandonment caused by his wife -- it's also the coming of the apocalypse, which has gotten everybody questioning their lives and the purpose.
Carrell delivers a performance that we cinema goers have been slowly getting used to seeing – playing a sombre understated man who is seemingly unaffected by the coming doom. He still goes to his job as an insurance salesman even after the announcement. We've seen him play these types of character before, in ‘Crazy, Stupid, Love’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’; delivering serious performances where he can still be able to inject some occasional laughs. It works and Carrell is starting to evolve into something of a “Bill Murray lite” -- think ‘Lost In Translation’ mid-life crisis type Bill.
The real surprise in this movie is Keira Knightley, who is unexpectedly a comedic equal to Carrell in the film. Known more recently for her serious forays into more mature roles (‘Atonement’, ‘Pride and Prejudice’), her turn as Penny, the kooky vinyl collecting girl whose happy outlook serves as a stark contrast to Carrell's rather uptight Dodge; and together, they make for a very unlikely but likable on screen couple.
Knightley's a delight in this rare contemporary comedic role, in particular a tearful scene in which she calls her parents from across the pond and also, a seemingly random discourse about vinyl records that really shows off the movie's awkward charm. Both Dodge and Penny's individual arcs are really quite moving. With imminent death on the horizon, petty quarrels do not matter anymore, the past is what it is, the past; as the characters learn to treasure every moment in the present.
Being a first time effort from director Lorene Scafaria, the film does have flaws that are common with such debuts. The screenplay veer all over the place at times, going off course from the main gist of the story. More casual viewers will also be a little sensitive towards the jarring tonal shifts between heavy drama and comedy that the movie jumps from time to time. However, it just adds even more to the bizarre quirks of this movie and the things it does well more than makes up for it.
‘Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World’ is a tenderly sweet movie that slowly peels away its odd, weird pretense to reveal a beautifully romantic movie that explores the only thing that matters when material things don't mean anything anymore.
Overall, it's a promising debut from director Scafaria, whose addition of a ticking clock element in the format of the coming Apocalypse makes so much of the absurd elements of the movie work in its favour, but still managing to inject some sincerely heartfelt moments in here. Music fans will also love the soundtrack, an eclectic range of tracks that really add to the film's cinematic moments.
Dexian or just Dex if you have an inability to pronounce Chinese names, is a fervent film lover who's known to read up on the most inane pieces of cinema trivia just so he has something to talk about when he's drunk. When he's not watching something, he can be found reading other useless Wikipedia articles on things like Nebulaphobia.