Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (15)


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The Independent Culture

Writer-director Lorene Scafaria shows ambition in trying to fuse the disparate genres of comedy-romance and apocalypse movie. Is it enough?

Steve Carell plays another of his lugubrious nice guys, Dodge, blindsided by his wife's desertion on the very day it's announced an asteroid will obliterate Earth in three weeks.

Dodge can't connect with his friends, who in the shadow of extinction hold orgies and take heroin: he's mourning a true love from high school he should have pursued. Then he encounters Penny (Keira Knightley), a neighbour in his apartment block: she's kooky, disinhibited and willing to be his companion to the end of days.

Even if you allow for the faint creepiness of their liaison, the film runs into trouble once the couple hit the road, cute dog in tow. The spiky comedy of the early scenes (Dodge, an insurance exec, sells an "Armageddon Package" to customers) dissolves into mawkishness and thence absurdity when Dodge dreams up a radical solution to Penny's longing for her family in England.

You also notice the silly inconsistencies. First it's necessary to escape rioting and looting, but on the road trip it's pure American Pastoral. It's misconceived. If the end really was nigh, you wouldn't want to spend the little time left with either of these two.