How would humanity react to the news that in one month Earth would be struck by a meteor that will wipe out every living thing on the planet and there was nothing we could do to stop it? What would you do if you only had a month to live? How would society collapse if everyone knew and shared the same expiration date? If there’s a reason that apocalyptic comedies are in short supply it’s probably because they’re fairly tricky to pull off. “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” has ambition to be admired even if it isn’t entirely successful. This setup provides both broader laughs (fucking everyone without consequence!) and more contemplative moments (facing your mortality) in a complex juggling act. In the film, depressed forty-something Dodge (Steve Carell in low-key “Little Miss Sunshine” mode) decides to seek out “the one that got away” after his wife leaves him while his neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley, always charming), a young British woman just wants to be reunited with her family in England. So naturally, the unlikely pair set off on a road trip together.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria has assembled an extremely impressive cast for her sophomore film including brief turns from Connie Britton, Melanie Lynskey, Rob Corddry, Adam Brody, Gillian Jacobs, Rob Huebel, Patton Oswalt, William Peterson and Martin Sheen among others. But the spine of the film rests on the chemistry between Carell and Knightley which is not as strong as it could be. They’re both great actors but the pairing of these characters never quite seems to fit as well as it should. The tone likewise remains mostly on the lighter side which is probably okay considering how depressing the subject matter is and the fact that this is ostensibly a comedy. But I still have to admit I would’ve liked to see things get a little darker. (It’s also straining even as movie logic to see so many people still going to work in the final week or two.) Scafaria may have bit off a bit more than she could chew tonally but I have to admire her for trying. The finale in particular is so ballsy and unexpected, it both elevates the previous 80 minutes and makes me wish it had been as assured as the ending.