Saturday, April 26, 2014

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) ***

     It seems like there have been a bunch of movies about the end of the world the last few years. Maybe this is a big, unspoken anxiety in our society right now. Anyway, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a fairly good, semi-serious exploration of the theme.
     Steve Carrell plays Dodge, a sad sack insurance salesman in a loveless marriage. We meet Dodge as he hears the news that NASA's final attempt to stop an earth-bound asteroid has failed. Humanity must resign itself to destruction, and people react to this in a variety of ways. Some opt for hedonism, others for suicide. Many leave their spouses, including Dodge's wife. Dodge just continues to show up at his insurance job, not because the work has meaning anymore, but simply because he is too depressed to imagine doing anything else. Friends try to set him up with a woman, but he isn't interested in such a meaningless, end-of-the-world fling.
     Then he meets Penny (Keira Knightley), his flighty, attractive downstairs neighbor who is in the midst of her own breakup. They wind up agreeing to help each other on their individual quests. Dodge wants to re-unite with an old girlfriend, and Penny wants to get back to England to spend the Apocalypse with her family. You can figure out the rest.
     This kind of story could easily descend into treacle, and unfortunately, that is what happens at the end. For most of the film, though, Carell and Knightley have enough charm to create some real fun and humor, with help from an excellent supporting cast. My only complaint, other than the sappy ending, is that the film really doesn't explore very deeply the inner life of the characters as they face impending annihilation. They dip their toe into these waters at times, and the story is certainly thought-provoking, but the movie ultimately feels shallow. I guess that in the asteroid-apocalypse genre (e.g. “Deep Impact” “Armageddon”) this qualifies as a pretty deep movie, though.

3 stars out of 5

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