25. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Stars: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Rob Corddry, Patton Oswalt, Derek Luke, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, William Petersen, Melanie Lynskey
Most of the critics who’ve written negatively about novice director (and more experienced screenwriter) Lorene Scafaria’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World have chastised the filmmaker for bouncing around tonally, settling into a reflective vibe before quickly upending the sentiment with cheap laughs. And we agree, Seeking a Friend doesn’t have the most fluid of screenplays behind it, but here’s what it does have: two excellent leads and a well-developed romance that pays off in a beautifully heartbreaking manner.
Scafaria also receives bonus points for mining originality out of the otherwise tired end-of-the-world narrative set-up. With only 21 days left before an asteroid crashes into Earth, people are partying hard and heavily indulging in illegal vices, except for Dodge Petersen (Steve Carell), a disenchanted man whose wife has just left him. He finds a reason to wake up in Penny (an enthralling Keira Knightley), his perky, cute neighbor who convinces Dodge to track down an old high school sweetheart before mankind ceases to exist.
It’s not a spoiler to say that Dodge and Penny gradually fall in love with one another, but what may come as a surprise is that, for once, Seeking a Friend supplies us rom-com skeptics with a heart-to-heart connection we can actually feel. Together, Carell and Knightley sell every sentimental moment, principally the film’s profound closing sequence. You’d have to be made of stone not well up a bit.