Friday, June 22, 2012
In Theaters: SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (2012)
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Derek Luke, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, William Petersen, Martin Sheen, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Bob Stephenson. (R, 100 mins)
The apocalypse has been a recurring theme in recent films like ANOTHER EARTH, TAKE SHELTER, MELANCHOLIA, and 4:44: LAST DAY ON EARTH. SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is a more mainstream, audience-friendly look at the same subject from writer/director Lorene Scafaria, who wrote 2008's NICK AND NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST. Trailers for SEEKING made it look awfully similar to Don McKellar's 1998 Canadian cult classic LAST NIGHT, which followed various characters on the last night before the end of the world. No reason is given...it's just a known fact. SEEKING follows the LAST NIGHT template very closely in the early going but soon establishes its own plot and purpose. It's a mixed-bag overall, but there are some intermittently moving and powerful scenes.
As LAST NIGHT showed over a decade ago, this is an intriguing premise and for a while, Scafaria does an excellent job of exploring this new "we've all got three weeks to live" scenario. Dodge witnesses a horrifying suicide that's a shocking jolt to the audience. He later goes to a party hosted by his friends Warren (Rob Corddry) and Diane (Connie Britton), where it's essentially anything goes: Warren is letting little kids guzzle hard liquor ("Work through the burn!") and one partygoer cheerfully announces "Sarah & Dave brought heroin!" prompting one guest to yell "Oh, yes! Bucket list!" Another friend (Patton Oswalt) goes into great detail about his extensive sexual escapades since the announcement of Earth's imminent destruction ("I've been with a different woman every day! The playing field is leveled! They don't care about diseases or if your dick's too small or if you're related..."). There's an edgy darkness to the opening act of SEEKING, but once Scafaria introduces Penny, it essentially becomes an apocalypse rom-com and it's likely that Knightley will be unfairly blamed for the relatively conventional direction the film takes. The one-time critical darling has become a bit of a cineaste punching bag recently with her unjustly criticized performance in David Cronenberg's A DANGEROUS METHOD, which was mannered and over-the-top at times, but if she's delivering that performance in a Cronenberg film, then I'm inclined to believe that's what Cronenberg wanted from her.
In the end, I suppose SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD is about what you'd expect from an apocalypse film released nationwide in the middle of summer. Fortunately, it isn't a straight comedic ripoff of LAST NIGHT, as the trailers certainly went out of their way to convey, and it has some surprising strengths and an admirable darkness...for a while, at least.