Friday, November 23, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) **

R, 101 min.
Director/Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightly, Mark Moses, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, William Peterson, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Bob Stephenson, Derek Luke, Martin Sheen

It’s hard to give a negative review to such an intelligent film, but sometimes intelligence cannot replace entertainment. The movie is about exactly what its title says it’s about, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World”. It suggests that in our society, that might be more difficult than we might imagine.

Yes, the world is really ending. This is a problematic development for a romantic comedy, but gosh darn it, these filmmakers give it their best shot. Not much is explained about the end except that an extinction event asteroid is headed for Earth and nothing can stop it. There are 21 days left before impact as the film starts.

The first twenty minutes of the film are the best as it presents some pretty scathing, sharp-witted commentary about the meaningless priorities we’ve set forth for ourselves in our current society. Steve Carell plays Dodge, whose greatest revelation from the impending demise of everything is that he has almost nothing of true value in his life. His wife literally runs away from him the moment the news that there is no longer any hope for salvation breaks. He continues to go to work, because he really has nothing better to do. But eventually even that is too pointless to prolong. He’s in insurance. Ha, ha. He meets a neighbor who also seems to be clinging on to her own dignity while everyone else is submerging themselves into abandoned bacchanalia.

From that point, the movie really doesn’t have anywhere to go, so it journeys down the rom com road just for the hell of it, I guess. As a rom com, it’s OK, but that’s all been made irrelevant by the film’s set up. It is beautifully shot and wisely observant, but after the first act it has so firmly established the pointlessness of it all, that the rest seems rather dull and uninspired. I like the photography, the dialogue, the actors, the characters, but I just found it hard to care about a romantic comedy after they had explored to possible realities of doomsday in this day and age.

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