Keira Knightley is known for her roles in period dramas. Steve Carell is known for his comedic roles in film and television. They are not the pair of actors that make obvious sense to put as the main leads in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. But there is some sort of genius involved to even contemplate putting these two actors opposite each other.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is set in a world where all humans will be obliterated by an asteroid hitting the Earth in three weeks time. The film opens with Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife Linda (Nancy Carell) sitting in a car listening to the news that the end is coming after a space mission to destroy the asteroid failed. Linda promptly leaves the car never to be seen or heard from again. The world quickly unravels, moving into chaos as people go frantic and give up. Dodge meets Penny (Keira Knightley) after she starts crying outside his apartment window on the fire escape. Penny is from England and is distraught that she will never see them again since all commercial air traffic is grounded. She is also breaking up with her boyfriend. Penny spends the night at Dodge’s place, and through conversations, they decide to help each other out. Dodge wants to find the past love of his life, and Penny wants to fly home. They set out on an adventure that has them running into a multitude of characters along the way.
The film basically deals with what happens when nothing you do matters anymore. With only three weeks to live, why not do drugs and have sex with a bunch of people because you are going to be dead soon anyways. While people are going wild, others dwell on the end and what they could have done different with their lives. Some just go on with their lives like nothing is ever going to happen, like Dodge’s housekeeper Elsa who just keeps showing up to do her job and ask for more “windows” cleaner.
Keira Knightley and Steve Carrell are the only main characters in the film. The trailers and TV spots for the film are a tad misleading and name other actors, but each of them only have a few minutes on the screen, if that. Think of this film as similar to Homer’s The Odyssey. There are a couple goals that Penny and Dodge have, and in the pursuit of them, they run into these characters that help them along the way. Playing those characters are Martin Sheen, Derek Luke, and William Peterson. There is also a cast of quirky characters when Penny and Dodge happen upon a Friendsy’s (like T.G.I. Friday’s). Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Melanie Lynskey, Connie Britton, Rob Huebel, and an unrecognizable Adam Brody make appearances in the film pre-adventure in the first couple of days after the end of the world announcement.
Keira Knightley steps out of her perceived box as a drama actress. Except for maybe Pirates of the Caribbean, she takes mostly serious roles. Seeking a Friend is not wholly comical since it does deal with the end of the world and everyone eventually dying, but when she is paired with Steve Carrell, there are bound to be some laughs. She pulls off the bohemian, pot smoking, hyper-sleeper Penny well. Penny is more impulsive than Dodge and willing to have more fun. Keira Knightley may have opened herself to more comedic roles given her performance in Seeking a Friend.
Steve Carell has done dramatic roles before. He is not an actor who solely stays in the comedic genre. His performance in this film is good, but I have seen it before. This role reminds me of Dan in Real Life, another Carell dramedy. He plays a depressed guy who does not think of himself as worthy of much. He does not get wild and crazy and is more practical. I feel like I have already seen Steve Carell play this character before. I am not saying that Carell is not funny or a good actor in Seeking a Friend, there is just nothing that stands out about his performance.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a fairly funny film about the end of the world. Considering the subject, it does have a serious side. Love is a central theme in the film. It all boils down to who you want to spend your last days with and how you spend them. You may shed a few tears and laugh hysterically, all in the same film. Oh, and it has a cute dog named Sorry in it, too.
I give Seeking a Friend for the End of the World 3 “Doing drugs requires Radiohead” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek