I don’t know if we are at the point where we can label anything a comedy. I don’t know when it was considered acceptable to do a film about the end of the world and call it a comedy, but there have been several films about “the end of the world as we know it” in this decade alone and they are played for laughs. It is quite possible that we got afraid of that whole 2012 Mayan Calendar thing and decided to try and laugh it off and make films like The World’s End
and This is the End
to be released one year later. In 2012, there was Seeking a Friend at the End of the World.
This is a comedy starring Steve Carrell, who is capable of both comedy and drama. The film begins with Carrel as Dodge, a man with a serious irony in his name. He is listening to the radio with his wife, played ironically by Carrell’s real-life wife. They hear that some shuttle that was supposed to stop an asteroid from destroying the Earth has failed. In other words, the way that they prevented the destruction of the world in Armageddon and Deep Impact just outright failed.
What happens next feels kind of outright predictable to me. With the world realizing that there is only a certain amount of time left, it kind of let’s loose. In the case of Dodge, his wife commits suicide, and he is one of the many who do so before the big crash.
I’ve actually seen this type of behavior before. There was a short-lived television show called The Three Moons over Milford. The show was about an asteroid that hit the moon that strikes the moon and splits it into three parts. Most people believe that the world is coming to an end, so they start indulging in formerly repressed behavior.
Now, The Three Moons of Milford was about a possible end of the world, but this is the scientifically proven real deal. It seems like the world is facing denial, but no one panics, at first. There is even a scene where Dodge is at a dinner party and people are going around the world sharing what they are going to do before they die. It is terribly cavalier.
There is a scene where Dodge’s friend’s wife openly hits on him. Her response is “no one belongs to anyone now that this happens”. It is probably the best description of the situation as any.
Eventually, the world starts panicking, complete with riots. Dodge decides to leave town as he receives a letter from his “one that got away”, and decides to leave town. He gets a friend on the way with Penny, played by Keira Knightley.
This is a set up for an end of the world road comedy, and introduces some interesting characters. They meet a driver who had a hit taken on himself, and it works. They then meet a restaurant where the workers act like extreme hedonists. They get pulled over by a cop who apparently lives in a lot of denial as he sees a need to arrest both Penny and Dodge. This leads them to Penny’s ex, who has a bomb shelter and believes that he will survive all of this. This is one of those films where the characters just go from one misadventure to the other.
I’m going to spoil this film in one part. There is a scene after Dodge and Penny leave the aforementioned hedonistic diner where they just have sex. It feels less like them attempting to fill lost love then finding lost love. I don’t know how I would act in this given scenario, and even one of my favorite books, On The Beach, addressed this issue in the sense that humanity would embrace its mass extinction with humility and dignity.
This film does show that the end of the world somehow brings out the best in everyone, even though I think we all know it could get very terrifying to see the human race come apart at the seams. In short, I will have to say that Seeking a Friend at the End of the World is either a hidden gem or what we want to hear, but the ending is bittersweet as it is good.