“Seeking A Friend For The End of the World” cutesy approach to doomsday

“Seeking A Friend For The End of the World” is no great step forward for American filmmaking, be it for the forces behind the camera, in front, or the dudes writing it all as they go along. But I’ll be damned if it doesn’t do things differently than we’ve come to expect, and for the better. “Seeking A Friend”’s major gimmick lies in its casual approach to an otherwise hyper-depressing subject matter, namely, the end of the world. It’s a bold move, perhaps the film’s only bold move. But it’s a great one.

The leads here are Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, playing into type as actors yet against type as a romantic pairing. The announcement has been made across the world that last-ditch efforts to destroy a 90-mile wide asteroid have failed, and that it will obliterate Earth in two weeks’ time. Carell and Knightley’s characters, Dodge and Penny, narrowly escape rioting L.A. crowds and head out onto the road to dwindle away their last few days. Along the way they encounter many quirky passerby, grapple with their upcoming death, and confront possible feelings for each other.

“Seeking A Friend” stands out for its application of a standard formula, the romantic comedy, to an outlandish setting. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria has great fun simply thinking up the logistics of a world facing its end; highlights of the film are concepts such as self-hired assassins, well-stocked “apocalypse” bunkers, et cetera.

But for the film’s high-concept energy, its the simple interactions between Carell and Knightley that stick. About 70% of the film consists of simple exchanges between the two, so needless to say, their chemistry is pretty vital to the film’s success. It clicks. Their dynamic is basically a bounce between weary skepticism and jumpy energy, with both actors hitting their mark effortlessly. Particularly in the final third of the film, as the characters come ever-closer to their doom, does the poignancy and despair land. The final five minutes truly are heartbreaking, if not particularly original. It is perhaps the only part of the film where the true weight of the situation comes to light, something that makes for a good piece of entertainment, if not necessarily a daring one. B-

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