Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Keira Knightley, Steve Carell, and Aleister consider their next movePhoto: Focus Features
5 StarsWhy I Saw It: Enjoy Carell, and the premise piqued my interest.
What I Thought: Will probably upgrade to 5 stars on the second viewing.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Dir. Lorene Scafaria. Perf. Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen, William Petersen, Rob Corddry, Gillian Jacobs, Patton Ostwalt, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, Bob Stephenson, Melinda Dillon. Focus Features, 2012.

When a mission to save Earth from an asteroid fails, one man joins the billions in deciding how he’s going to spend the remaining three weeks.

Update Aug 2013: Yep. I’ve since seen this twice more, and love it better all the time, so bumping it to five stars.[/message_box]The more I think about it and the more days elapse since having seen it, the better I like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

At first I found myself growing concerned: looked like straight meets loopy, loopy continually monkeywrenches straight’s plans, straight cries “This is serious!” as loopy cries “Lighten up!” and they commence to wacky adventures as the world ends. Hm.

No worries. (At least not regarding the movie. Now, a comet…)

It’s true, Steve Carell’s character Dodge is as straight as they come ~ because he’s world weary and woebegone, and for good reason (other than the obvious). But there’s more to him than that, and Carell turns in a perhaps-surprisingly excellent performance. Comedic talents don’t always translate well to the dramatic, but Carell does quite beautifully here and appears to have additional depths yet to be plumbed. Today we have a deeper iteration of Little Miss Sunshine and get to see the character revivify. Very nice indeed.

And it’s true, Keira Knightley’s definitely giving us the loopy ~ and giving us the only unfortunate element of the film. When she’s playing Elegant Creature, one can’t find one better, but when she steps off of that, she appears to be working way, way too hard. As with A Dangerous Method (excellent, by the way), she almost screams, “Look at me! Now I’m playing [fill in the blank]!” That said, her dramatic moments are quite lovely and modulate the loopy as things develop.

Seeking a Friend takes a little while to find its footing, but when it hits its stride, each step becomes smoother and stronger until imperceptibly they culminate in an elegant springboard dive into something almost spiritual. For this we have Steve Carell’s nuanced performance and the transcendent musicality of Jonathan Sadoff and Rob Simonsen to thank.

Seeking a Friend boasts the most effective, enchantingly employed, and purchase-worthy soundtrack since Forrest Gump (listening to it while writing this, in fact). With a touch so light as to be ethereal it runs concurrent to the content ~ never on point to the action underway, but instead reflecting the emotional terrain of both our characters and the overarching situation.

Accompanying it is the quite possibly perfect score: enlivening, amusing, ironic, bittersweet, and ultimately comforting and hopeful, it brings us to an end ~ of the story, of the movie, of the world ~ in a remarkable place far removed from where we might expect to be.

I say “might expect” to be because Seeking a Friend offers us that most elusive of experiences: of having no idea whatsoever where this thing is going to go or how it will end. Other than the obvious, of course. This is an asteroid, baby, and there ain’t no solution gonna change that happening. So that said… what?? Things can go anywhere. And so they do, without ever going off the rails.

The supporting characters (including gentle canine sidekick Sorry) delight throughout; as our hero pursues his own path toward meeting his end, he and loopy encounter an array of others pursuing their own widely varied answers to that question. It’s interesting and heartening to see reactions other than wilding and predation, and virtually every conceivable response is represented in the supporting characters. (It probably helps with civility that everyone’s going Boom at the same time, but I digress…)

The supporting cast includes an entertaining parade of cameos, and even the perhaps lesser recognized stand out, including the marvelous Bob Stephenson. (I love that guy anywhere I see him ~ people never recognize the name, but generally snap at the mention of Fight Club’s vibrating luggage conversation.)

Denial, despair, revelry, resolve, hope, love, absurdity, insanity, celebration, exploration, surrender… it’s all there. Just regular folks taking what matters still can be into their own hands. And writer and debut director Lorene Scafaria is officially on the Interested list.

More Windose, please…

See it if: You’d enjoy an interesting pairing/counterpoint to Knowing.

Skip it if: You’re seeking the crazy antics of boundary-relieved mob revelry, a la Project X. This ain’t that.

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