Web-exclusive Review: “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” raises questions of mortality

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By Mac Moore

Sometimes we wonder about our mortality. We are humans; this is what we do.

Tim McGraw enlightens us that his personal philosophy on living like he was dying involves skydiving and Rocky Mountain climbing. No telling how much simple country rhyme schemes influenced his bucket list, but it is a good question. What would you do if you had a day, a week or a month to live?

The topic really gets interesting when it’s no longer just our mortality, but instead the mortality of the entire world. That’s the whole point of the discussion about the end of the Mayan calendar.

Of course, few people truly believe Dec. 21 is a discernible expiration date, even if that’s what my current milk carton reads. The indie gem “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” decides to delve into the mess that would be created if humanity knew the exact end of times. The plot struck me as the antithesis to the film “Armageddon.” It’s like what would have happened if that movie was realistic and Ben Affleck just died.

The opening of the film shows Dodge and Linda Petersen (real-life couple Steve and Nancy Carell) parked in their car along the side of the road. The radio is playing a news report that the space shuttle Deliverance, man’s final hope against the impending asteroid Matilda, has failed and the giant space rock is going to crash into Earth in 21 days. As Dodge is still reeling from the news, Linda immediately exits the vehicle and goes running into the darkness and out of her agreement of “‘til death” three weeks prematurely.

Dodge remains relatively stable as the world seems to go to hell around him rather quickly. At work the boss announces “casual Fridays from now on,” and with false happiness seeks a volunteer to take over as CFO of the company.

Dodge’s maid continues to come over to clean the house as if she is completely unaware of the world’s impending doom. His middle-age friends have started an endless party where the kids are chugging martinis and formerly well-functioning adults are giddily trying heroin for the first time.

Dodge wants none of this and attempts to keep relative normalcy in his final days; that is until he notices his neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightly), crying on the fire escape. He comforts her as she tells him of her selfishness that has caused her to waste her life on men and probably never see her family again. They are in England and the airlines have all shut down. He invites her in, to which she responds, “I promise not to steal anything if you promise not to rape me.”

This eventually leads to Penny giving Dodge two bits of information: his wife has been cheating on him, and Penny has collected a stack of his mail inadvertently placed in her mailbox over the years. The mail contains a letter from his high school sweetheart, Olivia, the “one that got away.”

In the midst of a riot that breaks out at their apartment complex, Dodge gets Penny to leave with him to find Olivia in exchange for the promise that he knows some guy with a plane who can fly her across the pond. The story is off as the two attempt to find a woman he hasn’t seen in two decades.

What starts out as an extremely dark comedy veers back to being a traditional romantic comedy. The movie makes sure to use the powerful thematic tool of mortality to blunt any “Pride and Prejudice”-ness over the head. The balanced is sustained through much of the film.

In many indie comedies like this, the humor starts to die as the plot thickens. I feel this movie lessens the workload of the main characters and puts the comedy imperative on the bit players who pop into the film.

Dodge and Penny start to exchange personal details about themselves while eating at a TGI Friday’s-style restaurant where all the employees and patrons are tripping on ecstasy. Later a no-nonsense cop continues to fill his quota despite pleas from Penny to ignore her traffic violations, because, well, you know, there is an asteroid about to annihilate humanity.

“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” raises the questions nobody thinks they need to answer today: am I on the right track? Are these things really important? Would I be so frivolous if I knew how much time was left? Also, what would we really do when we near the end: party or panic, love or lust? Maybe just sleep.

Yeah, I choose sleep.

Contact Mac Moore, sports editor, at mmoore82@jccc.edu.

 

Related articles:

InFocus: Dec. 21, 2012: It’s the end of the world again?

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