Expectations: I was pretty apathetic about this movie. I wasn’t really anticipating it with every fiber of my being, but whenever the trailer came on my television I thought that it looked cute.
Plot Summary: As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
Reality: Seeking a Friend feels like an independent film, but with that shiny, big studio smell. The cast was a little too well-known and mainstream to completely be one of those quirky, indie films that can only be seen in one theater in town. An additional feature of the film that lent it that slightly unusual air was the pairing of Keira Knightly and Steve Carrell.
Seeking a Friend is an amusing movie. It has a slightly cynical tone, that won’t necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea, and moments in the movie do boarder on the ridiculous. But, the filmmakers manage to show the audience pretty well what America could look like if the world was going to end. You can’t help but laugh as the inhibitions of people collapse and the cynical perspective sets in. There are moments when you aren’t sure whether or not to laugh. Suicide jokes and substance abuse amongst minors abounded during the opening bits of the film. Perhaps the point is to make you feel awkward in your laughter, or perhaps it is meant to shock the viewers. If that is the case, then bravo to the filmmakers.
As such, the film’s tone suffered at some moments. It varied between charming, sad, funny, and harsh, which is fine and dandy, if the tones are balanced well. It seemed that Seeking a Friend could only handle one at a time, rather than striking a balance between a few. It was almost like the director (Scafaria) wasn’t sure exactly what kind of movie she wanted to make. Did she want a quirky comedy? A cynical comedy? Something heartfelt and charming? Or a thoughtful, introspective piece? It could, and in some ways is, all of the above, but fails to be confident about the fact.
Knightly is especially gifted at crying. She’s incredibly talented at speaking through tears, in near hysterics. In fact, she nearly brought me to tears during one particularly heartbreaking moment. Carrell on the other hand, seems to play two types of characters: he is either Silly Michael Scott or Pathetic Middle Aged Man. Granted, he is exceptionally good at both characters. He is perfectly normal looking for this type of role and he wears his heart on his sleeve like no one else can. However, I would like to see Carrell branch out sometime and become someone we don’t even recognize. Because, truthfully, every time I see him he is only Steve Carrell, never his character.
Let’s talk screenplay. The upcoming end of the world story arc is played out simply, with just enough explanation to make sense, but not over explaining and boring the audience. There were a few muddled moments in the screenplay, especially a moment in the beginning of the film. There will probably be a lot of debate about the end of the movie. As the movie progressed I kept wondering how they were going to end the movie. When you’re talking about the end of the world you are also talking about an extreme ending. In the end, the screenplay picked the best ending for audiences, not for realism. If this was a truly independent film with an obscure cast and limited release it would’ve taken the road less traveled by choosing the realistic ending. However, this is a nationwide release with two big name actors and they needed an ending that would fly. You can’t always have everything.
Seeking a Friend was charming, funny, and interesting. I did spend an alarming amount of the film contemplating what I would do if I only had a few weeks to live, and I think many others were on the same page. Knightly’s adorable portrayal of Penny was endearing and there were many laugh-out-loud moments. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in seeing then go for it. However, I wouldn’t blame you if you waited until it was available at your local Redbox. It’s a good movie, but it isn’t one you need to rush out and buy a ticket for.
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