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L.A. Film Fest Review: Steve Carell Is "Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World"

Megan Singson |
June 19, 2012 | 5:23 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

A meteor is going to destroy earth in 21 days, signaling the end of the world. What do you do? This is the question that arises in the indie comedy “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” where people are seen looting and rioting or taking ecstasy and partying. But others, like Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley), are just looking for someone to be with when armageddon strikes. 

The directorial debut of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” writer Lorene Scafaria is able to bring a bit of light to the dark doomsday theme that Hollywood films have been playing with for years. But the comedic performances of Patton Oswalt, Rob Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, Gillian Jacobs and TJ Miller that are featured in the trailer may mislead viewers who are expecting a laugh-out-loud comedy. “Seeking a Friend” is more bittersweet than anything, giving a few good laughs but ultimately leaving the audience in tears wondering what they will do when the end finally arrives. 

The film follows insurance salesman Dodge whose wife (played by Carell’s real-life wife Nancy) literally ran away upon hearing the news of the apocalypse to be with her lover. With no family and his few friends busy doing heroin or hooking up, Dodge is convinced he will die alone. But when his neighbor Penny delivers the mail she’d accidentally received over the years, one letter changes everything. The letter is from Dodge’s high school sweetheart Olivia, stating that she has gotten a divorce and is still madly in love with him. Upon this discovery, Dodge makes it his goal to be with her when the world ends. 

As for Penny, she is a romantic record enthusiast who just broke up with her wannabe-musician boyfriend (Adam Brody) and is distraught that she may never see her family again. Dodge knows someone with a plane and offers to help Penny get back to England, and she, feeling guilty for giving Dodge his letter three months late, is determined to help him reach Olivia. The two take off on a road trip where they encounter a suicidal trucker, a TGI Friday’s-style orgy, potato chip-eating survivalists and a mass baptism. Along the way this odd pair transitions from two strangers to two friends and eventually become two people madly in love. 

The humor is clever but dark, resembling that of Scafaria’s close friend and fellow screenwriter Diablo Cody (“Young Adult”). When Dodge first invites Penny into his home she says, “I won’t steal anything if you don’t rape me,” eliciting some laughs from the audience. There is a good mix of humor and thoughtfulness and even though the focus starts to waver and drag, the end is moving though somewhat clichéd. 

The characters are not spectacular -- Dodge being a more pathetic version of Carell’s character in “Crazy, Stupid, Love” and Penny being more awkward than quirky. But the audience can’t help but feel for them as their world falls apart, not because they are attached to the characters but because they can relate to at least one of them, either the free-spirited Penny or the play-by-the-rules Dodge. And in the end every audience member can understand what Penny and Dodge want and what the film is trying to say: that what people really need at the end of the world -- whether it be through hookups, ecstasy or tragic romance -- is a friend. 

Watch footage from the red carpet premiere here. 


Reach Staff Reporter Megan Singson here.



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