Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

When you think of Steve Carell, it’s hard not to imagine him as one of his iconic kooky characters like The Office’s Michael Scott or Maxwell Smart in Get Smart; in fact, sometimes it’s just downright hard to take Carell seriously, such as the title character in Dan in Real Life. With that said, I was skeptical of Carell’s new film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, in which he plays a fairly straight-laced character.

For those who don’t know, IMDb.com describes the premise of the film: “As an asteroid nears Earth, a man 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 a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.”

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World makes it clear right from the get go that the world is going to end, which sets a unique stage for the characters. Carell’s part, an insurance salesman named Dodge, is soft spoken, naïve, and facing a midlife (or would it be end-of-life?) crisis amid imminent doom, which proves quite the predicament in a hopeless world.

The story itself, and the underlying context, is what brings the film to life. Viewers get to see a whole spectrum of reactions to the end of the world: some people can’t handle the pressure, while others seem to thrive. For better or worse, reconciliation, uninhibited sex, heroin, love, family, survivalists and suicide are just some of the things you’ll encounter in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

While the movie does have its fair share of funny parts, it isn’t your traditional Carell comedy. I’d classify it as a comedy and drama hybrid, also known as a "dramedy." The story is centered on despair, hopelessness and dread, but at the same time there are uplifting moments of redemption, tenderness and living life to the fullest. The film, which will have you laughing one moment and deep in thought in another, has the unique ability to invoke extreme emotions, which isn’t too surprising considering it was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, who also wrote another journey-for-love film by the name of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist.

While the story is strong, it is made all the stronger by some great performances. The aforementioned Carell shook his trademark slapstick shtick and demonstrated that he’s like a Transformer, there is more to him than meets the eye. Likewise, Keira Knightley rocked it as Penny, the woman who would change Dodge’s life at the end of days. I’ve always liked Knightley, but this is one of the first films where I felt like she truly let herself go. “I promise not to steal anything if you promise not to rape me,” is just one of Knightley’s more memorable lines.

Martin Sheen also does a tremendous job in a limited role as Dodge's father. I'm glad to see Sheen back in the saddle as the man clearly knows how to act. Furthermore, I also the various cameos throughout the film including those by Rob Huebel, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Amy Schumer, T.J.Miller and Jim O’Heir. Each of these actors had small roles, but combined they added a unique blend of amusement and intimacy to the film.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised with how enjoyable Seeking a Friend for the End of the World turned out to be. It proved a great blend of comedy, sincerity and drama that presented viewers with a number of existential questions; in other words, it was not only entertaining, the movie had me thinking about things long after I left the theater. It’s rare for a film to do that, but I always appreciate it when it does.

Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 87%

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