Seeking a Friend for the End of the World | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

The final days will still offer slightly quirky rom-coms


A giant asteroid due to wipe out Earth in two weeks is just one of Dodge's troubles. His wife has run off; his career in insurance is a dud; he's depressed; and his flighty neighbor Penny has been inexplicably holding his mail, denying him the chance to catch up with the lost love of his life. But the impending doom proves invigorating, and Dodge (Steve Carrell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) pair up for a road trip, seeking to sort out some last-minute details.

Writer-director Lorene Scafaria delivers a mostly amusing hybrid, part mismatched-buddy comedy and part romance; it's lightweight but with splashes of dark humor. Maybe this is how it will play out at the end times, but in Friend, the darker material was upfront; the closer the Final Hour drew, the more gooey and sentimental everybody got.

Scafaria wrote the screenplay for Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, and like that quirky rom-com, Friend also suffers a bit from feeling consciously written. At times, Scafaria's film doesn't seem to trust its characters, making them closer to caricatures rather than real flawed but still likable human beings. This is underlined by Carrell and Knightly portraying familiar characters — the sad sack and beautiful mess, respectively. And, I guess, even during Earth's last days, we can't get away from the Hollywood default setting, whereby the dull older guy is paired with the beautiful young woman.

Likewise, the gimmick of Penny carting her vinyl records around is a forced bit, seemingly designed for Scafaria to drop a couple of cool oldie tunes into the mix. But it is true: "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore," and if your tastes run toward goofy-sweet fatalism, catch this before time runs out.

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