‘End of the World’ gets a thumbs up
During the 1960s recording artists such as Skeeter Davis, Brenda Lee and even Herman’s Hermits asked, “Why does the sun go on shining? Why does the sea rush to shore? Don’t you know it’s the end of the world”
Commonly, break-ups, broken hearts, and unrequited love serve as the theme for lyrics that describe an individual’s “world” coming to an end. “Seeking A Friend for the End of the World” defies the prevailing action heroics that eliminates a potential Apocalypse. No rounding up of the world’s best and concentrating on the efforts of their brain power and inevitable sacrifices, “Seeking A Friend” opens with the stunning revelation – a fire inside the shuttle Deliverance ended the mission to save the world from a large asteroid. 21 days remain until a “the end” marked in the iconic “On the Beach” by the then Cold War warning, “There’s Still Time Brother.”
The popularity of special effects technologies have trimmed the production of intimate accounts of a last days scenario. Instead, premises with a few survivors or with mutated cannibalistic zombies dominate mainstream science-fiction/fantasy filmmaking.
First-time director Lorene (screenplay, “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) Scafaria sticks with upbeat oldie classics (“This Guy’s in Love with You,” “Air That I Breathe”) resisting a darker urge to perhaps insert “Eve of Destruction” (Barry McGuire) or “In the Year 2525” (Zager and Evans). However, Ms. Scafaria should have included “Christmas at Ground Zero” by Weird Al Yankovic, as its lyrics are appropriately campy (Oh, it’s Christmas at Ground Zero / And if the radiation level’s okay / I’ll go out with you and see the all new / Mutations on New Year’s Day).
Interestingly, as the clock ticks, both characters have their share of long naps, which come without the requisite foreplay and love making. Label this an awesome call for the director as it virtually removes sex from the equation allowing Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) to concentrate on conversation, unconditional acceptance, and mutual chivalry.
Aside from a few too many “is this a bad time” and “it’s complicated” references, the opposite attracting chemistry bonds you with their styles of dysfunctional normalcy. Dodge’s nice guy spars well with Penny’s vinyl carrying, Converse wearing (partly unlaced) girl geek. Highlights of their road trip include a last chance restaurant and a subtle send up to a literal “On the Beach” party.
Unlike strict dramas (“Panic in Year Zero,” “The Day After”) “Seeking A Friend” maintains an unforced stiff upper lip, allowing thought provoking personal empathy and examination of conventional “rules” of our communities.
Left blowing in the end without closure are character tendencies gravitating to extreme emotions. My thumbs are up for this romantic odyssey – just concerned that some of the alone moments would be more psychotic.