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Carell, Knightley, desperation, et al.

click to enlarge APOCALYPTICA 'Seeking a Friend ': Woody Allen's morbid jokes put to film?
  • APOCALYPTICA 'Seeking a Friend ': Woody Allen's morbid jokes put to film?

No one wants to die alone. So it would probably be a good idea to avoid theaters screening Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the new Steve Carell depression fest.

At the beginning of the film, an Armageddon-like mission to blow up a meteor heading for Earth has failed; in a New York City apartment, meanwhile, drab insurance salesman Dodge (Steve Carell) has just been abandoned by his dissatisfied wife. As he has since Dan in Real Life, Carell flashes brave little flinchy smiles, like a child trying not to cry when getting an allergy shot.

He is invited to an orgiastic party, where the sarcastic man of the house, Warren (Robert Corddry), is having a high time serving cocktails to his 10-year-old children. Dodge's fat pal Roache (Patton Oswalt) is in ecstasy about being able to get laid at last, without worry of pregnancy or disease.

Dodge, however, is too sensitive for this excess. After some patches of cinematic dead air establishing the slow collapse of everything, Dodge's downstairs neighbor Penny, the film's Manic Pixie Dream Girl archetype (Keira Knightley), sneaks into his apartment and passes out on his couch. The two bond, the riots begin and then it's road-trip time: Penny needs to get a plane to England so she can be with her parents once the world ends, and Dodge wants to see for the last time the love of his life, his high school sweetheart.

Unlike Don McKellar's similarly themed but tougher Last Night, nothing here makes the apocalypse look truly impending. Contrast Carell's own despair and the way lesser, simpler people cling to their jobs. This can be funny, as when T. J. Miller plays the hysterically upbeat host of a Friendsy's (i.e., TGIF Friday), where the crew has decided to go to their God, stoked to the max.

Overall, this morbid romance resembles Woody Allen's joke about a lover trying to seduce a woman with an offer of twin cemetery plots. That fatalness is mirrored in Dodge's high school romance that went south. As Penny says, "You didn't pull the trigger," i.e., propose marriage. But this is less a metaphor for la petite mort as it is advice to the audience to find that special someone, curl up and die.

'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' opens on Friday, June 22.

  • Carell, Knightley, desperation, et al. in 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World'

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