Saturday, June 23, 2012

Review: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Seeking A Friend for the End of the World, is one of those movies that reads like a mashup of other movies. In this case, it reads like the combined bones of The Road and Melancholia with comedy skin stretched over them. And while that sounds like a hard combination to pull off, Seeking A Friend actually does admirably.

The plot is concerned with Dodge (Steve Carrel) a quiet, emotionally repressed man who, like the rest of the world, has just discovered that the last attempt to stop an asteroid about to hit the world has just failed. As the world falls apart around him, he meets and bonds with his odd neighbor Penny (Kiera Knightley). He promises her that he can get her to a plane to get her back to England to be with her family, if she can help him get to an ex girlfriend.

What this ends up amounting to is a combination character based comedy and road trip movie, as Penny and Dodge drive across the country seeing how different people are dealing with the coming end of the world. And despite it's PG-13 rating, the depictions of people losing it as the end approaches can get shockingly nasty sometimes. I don't want to spoil, but I'm actually a little impressed that they didn't cop out on their depictions of people losing it (up to and including assisted suicide).

This is primarily an actor driven movie and Steve and Keira do good jobs. Keira comes off better, given the more interesting character and getting a really nice bit of acting done during a phone conversation we only see one half of. Steve Carrel does alright, in a character seemingly designed for his oddly underplayed acting style. Steve is an actor that I don't know how to feel about, as he's best known as being a comedy actor, but with the exception of a pair of supporting roles I don't much like his straight comedic roles (I can't stand The Office for example). On the other hand, in more serious, darker comedy roles, he frequently comes off pretty good, and his performance here is easily his best since Little Miss Sunshine.

The direction is pretty good, certainly ahead of the director's previous Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist. It has some nice juxtaposition of the odd ordinariness of certain things with what's coming. The screenplay is okay, even if the story is going where you expect and it's a little on the nose sometimes. But the combination of what's coming and some great acting from the leads allow it to be occasionally rather touching. Neither of these things are precisely top tier, but they're both above average, which is all you can ask really.

It's not perfect. The second act is a little overlong, the screenplay is a little blunt sometimes and it sometimes seems to be bouncing back and forth between practiced cynicism and clinging to hope, which can give you whiplash occasionally. But those minor issues don't stop it from being very good. I know there's a lot of stuff out right now you'll want to see (I'm seeing some of the other stuff later this weekend) but what I do know is that this one is a nicely made and interesting movie. Definitely recommended.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he refuses to spoil whether they cop out on the ending or not.

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