An asteroid is hurtling toward Earth and in three weeks the planet will be destroyed. The news has informed the population and some are looting, some are living their final days with reckless abandon and some are moping about. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria attempts to find comedy, romance and a taste of drama in the coming apocalypse in her feature directorial debut Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a subject matter you wouldn’t immediately think of for a film best classified as a romantic dramedy, but the idea is intriguing. Unfortunately the end result is just as lackluster and unsatisfying as her previous script for Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The comedy is cold and the characters too uninteresting for me to care as they navigate an emptying landscape before meeting their anticipated demise.
The story centers on a pair of lost souls, beginning with Dodge (Steve Carell). Driving down the road with his wife, listening to the radio, the newscaster reports the final attempt to divert the asteroid from hitting the Earth has failed. Upon hearing the news, his wife jumps out of the car and runs, never to be heard from again. Dodge drives home, mopes around his apartment until he notices his younger next door neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) crying outside his apartment window.
Inviting her in, Penny reveals she has just broken up with her boyfriend and is quite upset she’ll never see her family again seeing how they live in London and it’s the end of the world and all. Dodge listens and they share a relatively pleasant evening together considering the dire circumstances under which they met.
The next day, Penny brings over a pile of Dodge’s mail that had been mistakenly put in her box and she was always too irresponsible to actually deliver to him. Inside is a months-old letter from Dodge’s high school sweetheart whom he has never forgotten and regrets never reconnecting with.
With this revelation and his immediate frustration with Penny out of the way, he proposes a road trip where he can finally see the lost love of his life, after which he’ll take Penny to a friend who may be able to get her to London to see her family one last time. Along the way a series of minor adventures take place including breaking into a home and spending the night, running into a wild group of people embracing the end of the world by “embracing” one another, a man whose hired an assassin to kill him and various other characters, most of which all lead to a series of inevitable conclusions and do so without arousing much interest.
Everything about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is so uninteresting I found it hard to care in the slightest. Dodge likes to complain and it seems like an eternity is spent on Penny giving us the history of the record player in a scene that would have had me running for the door rather than endure another minute of her spiel.
My interest in the characters never reached a level where I actually cared about them and their goals and/or interests. The world was ending and all we were focusing on were thoughts that typically run through people’s heads rather than actually being verbalized, or, at least, certainly not to this extent.
None of the performances were particularly intriguing either. We’ve seen Carell mope before, feeling mistreated and lost, and I’d argue Knightley brought a maturity level closer to that of a high schooler than the adult with her character. No part of this film rung true to me as much as everyone seemed to be conjured out of thin air. Given the intensity of the circumstances I guess I was merely supposed to accept this is how these people would be acting. I couldn’t do it.
This film just sort of sits there, going through the motions, hitting its minor plot points, hoping you’re along for the ride, but it results in a missed opportunity. I get it, the prospect of your imminent death conjures memories of the past and a true sense of what’s important now. Maybe such a calm and rational realization would lead to such a mundane road trip filled with made up characters, but for my money I’m willing to bet it’s a bit more intense.