Steve Carell and Keira Knightley come unstuck in this dull and schmaltzy apocalyptic rom-com.
One of those genre hybrids that must have sounded bold, exciting, even revolutionary when it was being pitched, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a film that wonders aloud whether a meteor on course to destroy the earth can make a lilting love story more exciting?
'No' is the not wholly unsurprising conclusion. It’s as if writer-director Lorene Scafaria decided that this unusual framing device satisfied her film’s originality quotient, and so for the rest of it she doesn’t really have to try. As a result, everyone we meet on screen is a cliché: Steve Carell re-runs the same character from last year’s Crazy, Stupid, Love.; a repressed loser with too many layers of clothing who gradually gains self-confidence and cottons on to the art of casual dressing.
There’s nothing more to Keira Knightley’s Penny than can be guessed from the film’s poster. From the whimsical pink dress and Converse sneakers to the kinky hair and armful of vinyl, she’s a post-modern parody of the manic pixie dream girl. Add her to the offensively carefree, hippy-dippy ranks of Natalie Portman (in Garden State) and Zooey Deschanel (in everything).
Carell and Knightley spend the last three weeks of their lives on a meandering road trip. There’s a big joke concerning Carell’s Mexican maid who, even though the world is ending, keeps coming to clean the house. When Carell tells her to go and spend time with her family, she replies in Spanish, "I am your friend, I just want to clean your house."
So... don’t feel bad about underpaid foreign labourers. They love scrubbing floors! It’s the kind of line that leaves you lost for words. If only the same had happened to Scafaria, we could have avoided this calamity in the first place.
Knightley as a manic pixie is going to be excruciating, but Carell is generally enjoyable.
Being silly is one thing, but much of this film is just dull.
A failed attempt to mix genres, made worse by a lot of misplaced schmaltz.