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Friday, June 29, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World



A sweet, downbeat romanti-tragi-comedy about the apocalypse, neither Steve Carell nor Keira Knightley were technically seeking a friend for the end of the world, and yet they managed to find each other. In Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a 70 mile asteroid named Matilda is set to collide with the Earth. Humanity is doomed; we learn via news reports (anchored by Duck from Mad Men) that a last ditch effort to send a space shuttle to destroy Matilda failed with all lives lost. Matilda strikes in 21 days (though a late joke about that ETA earns big laughs) and soon everyone will be dead. Carell plays another of the frowning on the outside, crying on the inside, grin-and-bear-it schlubs so different from Michael Scott he has mastered portraying in his movies, but this might be his finest performance. Carell's wife, played by his real life wife Nancy Carell, literally runs away from him "as fast as a human being possibly can". In the midst of mass riots and drunken, promiscuous "end of the world" parties everyone else is throwing, Carell learns that he is next door neighbors with Knightley, a British free spirit ("I'm an optimist!") who can't return to England to see her family because the apocalypse has permanently grounded all commercial air travel. Their soon-to-end lives thrown together, Carell and Knightley hit the road together, so he might find the missing love of his life and then take her to someone who owns an airplane so she can see her family. Along the way they encounter a plethora of funny people, including Connie Britton, Patton Oswalt, TJ Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Amy Schumer, Rob Corddry, and Martin SheenCarell and Knightley share an unlikely but palpable chemistry as they slowly get to know one another while ticking off the hours until the world ends. Filled to the brim with gallows humor, Seeking a Friend is really about connection and humanity, backed by writer-director Lorene Scafaria's obvious and persuasive love of songs by The Walker Brothers, Wang Chung, PM Dawn and INXS (it's a great soundtrack). Staying honest and true to their characters no matter how dire the world has become, Seeking a Friend earns its touching conclusion to Carell and Knightley's story. I'm glad I got to know those two; their final moments together in the movie are my favorite thing.