There are two types of people in this world. First, you have safety netters. Logic prevails in the life of a safety netter; planning is their preferred mode of transportation on life’s highway. Second, you have dabblers, the free spirits who often follow their hearts instead of their heads throwing caution to the wind that fills the sails on their sea of spontaneity.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, which may win the summer’s award for longest movie title, stars Steve Carell and Keira Knightley as they forge an unlikely (real world) bond during a road trip as Earth awaits destruction from an impending asteroid.
Carell stars as Dodge, a safety netter New York insurance salesman. When news breaks about the end of days, Dodge sits listlessly in the car with his wife and can only muster a trivial comment about missing his exit. This moment bestows the strength for his wife to leave him sitting alone in the car and Dodge to face the fact that his entire life may have been one missed exit.
Even after his wife deserts him, Dodge is unable to shake things up. He continues to robotically maneuver his way through the end of his life. He attends an end-of-days party where his friends, played by Rob Corddry and the wonderful Connie Britton, and guests are shedding their inhibitions (heroin, anyone?), only to find himself hiding from life and himself in the bath tub. This is probably one of the best parts of the movie, creating a wave of anticipation the rest of the film is unable to match.
Ultimately instead of looking forward (the world is ending in 21 days), Dodge pulls out that box that everyone has in the back of their bottom drawer and starts reminiscing about the past. An absent father and Olivia, the high school sweetheart a la Katy Perry’s “One That Got Away”, provide plot points for the rest of the movie.
If Hollywood has taught us anything, it’s that opposites attract. Enter Penny (Knightley), a pot-smoking pixie whose philosophy about life is found in a stack of vinyl records. Neighbors for years, of course the two have never met. Penny, who is regretting her free-spirit because she missed the last planes that could’ve gotten her home to see her family in England, is seeking to heal the fresh wounds of yet another break-up.
Penny pushes Dodge to find Olivia and in return Dodge knows a man who may be able to help Penny get to England. Dodge and Penny make many stops during this trip including to a T.G.I.Fridays-style restaurant where the flair includes glow sticks and other ecstasy-related paraphernalia. After a few mudslides and a birthday song from a rolling waitress the film makes a U-Turn at the corner of romantic comedy and cliché.
Lorene Scarfaria’s (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist) script starts smart but with each stop in the road trip ends up fueling up with rom-com clichés- ultimately destroying the audience’s investment. There is an equally satisfying alternate ending that would have staved off the film’s devolution and still left audiences feeling like they got their Hollywood ending but instead of taking a chance the story chooses the obvious (and this is coming from Mr. Safety Netter himself).
Carell chooses roles that enhance his goofy, likeable appeal. Paired with Knightley he even exudes a bit of sexiness, strange as that may sound, since I’ve always viewed him as that uncle at a family reunion with great stories but only in small doses. It’s their pairing that helps make this film (and its typical ending) the best bet of the three major studio releases this weekend.