Based on a screenplay by Lorene Scofaria (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist), Seeking a Friend for the End of the World starts with an announcement that the World will end in three weeks when a meteor crashes into Earth. Dodge (Steve Carell) is in a car with his wife during the announcement, and she promptly gets out and runs away. While trying to cope with the news of his and everyone else’s impending destruction, Dodge meets Penny (Keira Knightley) in his apartment block and the two decide to set out on the road together to find Dodge’s High School sweetheart and Penny’s family.
Seeking a Friend is broken down into an episodic road-trip film, with Dodge and Penny meeting various odd and unusual characters along the way. With a setup that involves the end of the World, it’s nice to see Seeking a Friend taking some time to explore the philosophical ideas of ‘what would you do in this situation?’ There are riots, orgies, elaborate suicides as the central pair are presented with all the options on how to spend their last days, before deciding upon the best choice for them.
Pitched as a black comedy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World has a confused and misshapen plot. There are brief moments of situational comedy, like Dodge’s maid continuing her duties in the face of death and people having themselves killed by privately hired assassins. Yet the comedy feels flat and a little lazy considering the extreme situation that all the characters find themselves in. Too often Seeking a Friend drifts into the sentimental pseudo drama that constitutes the other half of the film and this makes the plot drag, so even though there’s a clear countdown to the end, it feels like a lifetime.
Fortunately the pairing of Carell and Knightley are good company on the whole. Carell channels a similar performance to those he gave so deftly in Dan in Real Life and Little Miss Sunshine. Knightley however, is the Seeking a Friend‘s standout character, who is above all else a quirky character rather than a quirky characteristic stretched to be a character and the standout scene of the whole film is her reaction to the one-sided phone call between her and her family.
In a film that is the indie version of high-concept films like Armageddon and Deep Impact, it’s fitting that Seeking a Friend does not ever waver from its character-heavy sensibilities and doesn’t even pull an overly sentimental finale. Directorially uninspiring and occasionally flat on laughs, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a likable indie film with a great central relationship. It just would’ve been nice to see everyone pushed a little harder, seeing as it’s the end of the world and all.