Before I start giving my impressions of Steve Carell's mediocre disaster comedy, I'd like to offer an explanation on why I feel it necessary to review the movie now. After all, "Seeking A Friend," come out in the summer, disappointed at the box office, and left barely a ripple afterwards. However, after sitting through a panel in Arisia looking at all of the SFF movies that came out in 2012, I was surprised to this movie didn't even merit a mention. I'm not sure how common that reaction was, but it seemed curious to me. Say what you want, "Seeking A Friend," absolutely poses a speculative question; what would happen if the world learned its end was nigh?
The movie begins with a couple pulled over on the side of the road listening to the final word on a doomed space mission to advert catastrophe from a giant asteroid called Matilda. As the radio pronounces the world's last and only hope dashed, Dodge (played by a glum and taciturn Steve Carell) watches his wife flee their car and run off into the night, never to be seen again. Meanwhile the world begins to quickly fall apart. Riots spiral out of control, the economy grinds to a halt, people start throwing themselves off of high buildings. In the middle of all of this Steve hits upon the idea of reuniting with a long lost flame. Accompanying him is Penny (played by Kiera Knightley) an eccentric young woman fleeing the conflagration of violence engulfing their city. In the true spirit of road movies, Dodge and Penny encounter odd balls and danger (mostly of the comic variety) as they slowly and predictably fall in love with each other.
The basic problem with the movie is that the strong and darkly comedic potential of the first 10 minutes or so evaporates quickly and we're left with a standard, guy meets girl rom com set-up. Romances live or die based on the chemistry of the leads and sadly, in "Seeking a Friend's" case there is almost no chemistry between Dodge and Penny. Dodge, for understandable reasons, is a complete wreck and shambles through most of the movie like he's already dead. Steve Carell does a really convincing job portraying someone bereft of hope. Knightly's Penny is more vivacious but suffers from a terminal case of stupid ray, that annoying trope in these types of movies where all of the conflict and drama stems from one character's daft decisions. KnightlyThe scenes they share are just painful and awkward and frankly unbelievable. Imagine "Garden State" with Louis C.K. filling in for Zach Braff and you'll be close to just how ill-conceived this pairing is.
Which is a shame, because if I haven't made it clear, I found a lot to respect about the movie's set-up and distressingly abrupt final minutes. This is a movie about the end of the world that goes about the task of describing the final days with admirable sobriety. I sort of wish they had scrapped the goofy road trip element and kept with the idea of apocalypse as mid-life crisis writ large.