Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is somewhat familiar territory for Lorene Scafaria, whose last screenplay, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, was also a road trip story with a mouthful of a title. While Nick and Norah is a resoundingly youthful tale of promise and possibility, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a much more grown-up tale, full of laughter and strife, stolen moments and, and thanks to Adam Brody and T.J. Miller, some utterly ludicrous ones.
We would all handle impending doom differently, and Scafaria’s screenplay deftly introduces us to an expounding variety of different viewpoints that pop up after an announcement reaches Earth that a large asteroid will indeed collide with the planet. There are thrill seekers and drug takers, and those who simply want to continue like everything is business as usual. There are rioters, doomsday prophets, and survivalists with underground bunkers. In short, when humanity goes berserk, there are still as many differences in personalities as there are in everyday life.
At the heart of all this, we find Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley), whose meet-cute reads like the one in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, without the sparkle of “Moon River” to back it up. Almost unwittingly the two become bound together, heading on a road trip with the hope to reunite Dodge with his childhood love, and Penny with her family in Britain. Because, why not?
The story is not without some problems. In theory, it’s great for Dodge and Penny to travel around, jumping into the last weeks in the lives of strangers. It might be funny to see how a Derek Luke character and a Connie Britton character traverse through their last days on Earth, but the road trip format means we are only meeting these people in brief encounters, and we don’t really know their hopes and fears, or any of the feelings that follow moments of wild abandon. Additionally, in order to show us all of these separate groups of people prepping for doomsday, Dodge and Penny merely seem to be ambling along with no real purpose until it's almost too late.
There’s a trick to creating a comedy with some underlying sadness, and Scafaria’s writing and directing initiative comes close to hitting all of the perfect notes. It knows how to be funny without trying, as when Penny and Dodge bury a body with the car keys they need to continue on their journey. It knows when to settle scores, when to let the past lie, and when to let its characters have the last laugh. It even knows when to let go.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is not an endearing little road trip comedy and it’s not a miserable end of the world tale. It toes the line between melancholy and living quite clearly, and while that may stagnate some audiences, it’s ultimately a telling and rich little comedy with a romantic bent.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World sort of falls into a no man’s land. The film reads like an independent film—and was produced with a low $10 million budget—but it received a fairly wide release, despite barely making over $7 million domestically. I’m guessing for the former reason (it certainly can’t be the latter), Universal Studios Home Entertainment has put together a nice little Blu-ray set for the film.
There’s all of the usual BD Live crap for upcoming releases, as well as the Ultraviolet option for purchasers. The Blu-ray comes with a DVD and digital copy, but a cheaper DVD copy is available for purchase as well. A lengthy list of outtakes introduces the extras on the disc, and as outtakes go, they are pretty funny, but nothing riotous.
“A Look Inside Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is the meatiest segment on the disc. Carrel, Knightley, and Scafaria feature prominently. The segment discusses the themes present in the film and looks further into characters. Following this is my favorite extra, “Music for the End of the World,” which takes a look at what music people would carry with them through their last days on Earth. My biggest problem is that each of these extras feature a few repeat moments, but the music extra, especially, is pretty charming.
The commentary is probably the weirdest hodgepodge of people I’ve ever seen. Scafaria obviously shows up and provides the bulk of the commentary on the disc, but Brody, producer Joy Gormand, Patton Oswalt (who cameos in the film), and Scafaria’s mom is apparently hanging out and talking, as well. They are clearly having a good time with the commentary, but it’s more goofing off than throwing out actual information, although I love Brody explaining the scene toward the beginning of the film where he ineffectively slams an apartment door.
Overall, it’s a nice little film with a nice little set. If you enjoyed the movie, you can’t go wrong with the Blu-ray, but this may not necessarily be one you have to have in your collection.