Seeking a Friend for the End of the World came out in the middle of summer and died a quick death, even though it starred Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. It’s likely the subject matter, which is inherently bleak. Because, even if the film pulls a last minute switcheroo, the set up is that the world’s going to end, which makes audiences question their own mortality. But though the filmmaking is simply adequate, the premise and performers make the movie an interesting visit. Our review of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
The film begins with Dodge (Carell) and his wife hearing the news that an asteroid is going to hit the earth in three weeks and there’s no hope left of averting it. The wife freaks out and leaves Dodge. Like a number of people, Dodge is still going through the motions. He goes to a party with some friends (Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt) and sees that most everyone has embraced their inner demons and are acting on their worst desires. Dodge still hasn’t. His next door neighbor Penny (Knightley) just broke up with her boyfriend (Adam Brody), and so she sleeps on Dodge’s couch, until rioting leads them to go on a road trip. Dodge decides he wants to see the love of his life, especially after he gets a letter that was mis-delivered to Penny’s house, where the woman says that she still loves him too. Penny wants to see her family, but they’re in England. Both Dodge and Penny think they have the solutions for the other’s problem.
There are a number of huge problems with this movie. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria is a first timer behind the camera, and it shows. Visually, she’s got no panache, but that may have a lot to do with the film’s limited budget. Even though the film is shot in the scope 2.35:1 aspect ratio, it feels a lot like television, as everything is coverage. The main thing is that Scafaria managed to get a number of great, talented people in the movie, so the film features Brody, Britton, Corddry, Oswalt, Rob Huebel, Melanie Lynskey, T.J Miller, Gillian Jacobs, and more in small parts with – generally – a good moment or two. It helps with the episodic feel of the film that you know you’re probably going to get a good cameo every couple of minutes.
But the reason why the film works is partly in the experience of the viewer. With a premise like this there are the events on screen, and what the viewer reflects on while watching the film. The film can be read as an apocalyptic love story, but it can also be read as a story not about true love, but how people can create intense feelings out of desperate situations, which is more interesting (at least, to me). Perhaps that has to do with the lack of real chemistry between the leads.
Focus Features has released the film on Blu-ray in widescreen (2.35:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. It looks and sounds great. Extras are minimal. There’s a commentary track by Scafaria, the director’s mother Gail Scafaria, Producer Joy Gorman and Patton Oswalt and Adam Brody. It goes for jokey, as you would expect with that line-up. There’s two featurettes “A Look Inside Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (5 min.) and “Music for the End of the World: What’s On Your Playlist?” (2 min.), with the former standard EPK-level stuff, and the later interesting for the choices (Knightley wants Talking Heads, Britton Prince), and then there’s some Outtakes (9 min.) The Blu-ray edition also comes with a DVD and digital copy.