Disaster movies are a dime a dozen, between the big event films released in theaters and the low budget fare found on the Syfy channel, we have no shortage of depictions of the end of the world. With such a wide assortment of different takes on this cataclysmic event that we can't seem to get enough of, it's strange to think that there are still avenues that have not yet been approached or roads not yet taken. Queue first time director Lorene Scafaria's new film, "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" ("Seeking..." hence forth) which not only holds the distinction as the longest title of the year, but also carries with it the very first time we see the end of the world without aliens, asteroids or tidal waves. Instead we see it from the perspective of two individuals in a world that has accepted its fate and is searching for what they hold dearest before the end arrives.
The premise of seeing a world that has accepted the fact that it is doomed is an interesting high concept. Too often we have seen countless nameless people holding their loved ones tight and close in anticipation of a daring mission's success or failure to prevent whatever nondescript thing is heading their way from arriving and killing everyone. The opening scene in "Seeking..." leaves no room for you to mistake this as anything other than a complete departure from that formula when we find Dodge (Steve Carell) and his wife (played by Carell's real life wife Nancy Carell) sitting in their car listening to a radio broadcast that has just announced the failure of the shuttle mission to prevent the asteroid from hitting Earth. Dodge's wife instinctually opens the car door and runs off into the night never to be seen again as Dodge sits there in disbelief that the world will end in just two weeks time.
That scene opens the film perfectly, setting up the idea of, "What would you do if you only had two weeks left to live?", but with the spin of this not just being the last days of perhaps a terminally ill patient, but for all of humanity and the entire planet. It's a really cool concept that works for the better part of the first half of the film where we see the awkwardness of people trying to determine how they should spend their final days, either at a stag party picking up chicks or by robbing and looting local stores. Some even decide to continue working simply because it brings a sense of normalcy to their lives that helps them deal with the impending doom of our species. It's all really highbrow stuff that unfortunately gets pushed to the side during the film's second half when our two main characters, Dodge along with his lonely and tortured neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) go on a road trip to try and get her back home to Europe and him to see his dad to make final amends.
Where that second half falls short is the fact that we don't go anywhere, meet anyone or see anything interesting during that road trip. You would think a road trip across the country filled with people preparing for the end of the world would be at least mildly entertaining (which it is from time to time), but the melodrama about a guy looking to go home to say goodbye to his estranged father is not the type of scenario you want to see take up a good hour of your disaster movie, no matter now matter how unique it is. At times seeing Dodge try to get home and say goodbye felt no different than a terminally ill person looking to make their last goodbyes and that really sells the premise of the film short in the end. The only real bright spot of any of this is in the films final moments, when the end is near. It is easily one of the best, most memorable, endearing and tragic endings of the year, it's just a shame most of the movie that came before it was such a bore.
Unfortunately its few strengths (as interesting as they are) do not outweigh its many faults, leaving it in this bizarre state of being strangely engaging at times and sleep inducing at other times. Even if you are a Steve Carell fan there isn't much to go on since he is stuck in this weird funk most of the time where he shows little emotion as possible which is supposedly his character's reaction to the end of the world. His chemistry with Keira Knightley as leaves much to be desired but given their circumstances with how they were thrust into each others lives, it is sort of fitting that they don't really match up well. In the end (of the world) "Seeking..." fails to live up to its promising concept. It is a film that had a lot of great ideas that perhaps needed a better script to bring forth its true potential. As it is, it will likely give anyone who watches it a few moments of enjoyment and many moments of wondering what could have been.