It’s clear that Hollywood has no shortage of end-of-the-world blockbusters. While most doomsday scenarios seem more concerned with the fire and brimstone side of things, Lorene Scafaria’s (“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”) forthcoming feature film “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” boils it down to the most basic necessity: human connection.
Starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, the film’s protagonist Dodge finds himself at an existential crossroads. In a moment of panic, his wife leaves him just as they — and the rest of the world — learn that an asteroid heading toward earth is expected to bring them all to their untimely conclusion. Despite the undeniably bleak subject matter, Scafaria’s film is unusually lighthearted without being insensitive or flat-out unbelievable. If anything, it’s more of a black romantic comedy than an end of day’s showdown.
“It was definitely less of a reaction about end of the world movies and more of a response to what romantic comedies have kind of become. I love them, and I love watching people fall in love, but I felt like I haven’t related to them much lately,” Scafaria said.
Alone and expectedly frightened, Dodge decides he’ll reach out to a high school sweetheart before his last hurrah. But after a riot erupts near his home, he flees with his British neighbor Penny accompanying him. It was a creative decision Scafaria decided on after interviewing various people about how they’d act if they were put in a similar situation.
“When I did a lot of human research and asking people what they would do, their needs were very basic. It was very much like being with friends and family,” Scafaria said.
“I asked a relative, and he said that he would find his high school sweetheart. Some people said they would go to work the next morning because they wouldn’t know what else to do with themselves, and other people obviously wouldn’t ever go to work again.”
There might be an asteroid at the center of it all, but there aren’t any elements of science-fiction in the film. It’s clear that Dodge feels like life has passed him by, but it’s with Penny’s help that he breaks out of his shell.
“For a guy who’s kind of been half dead and sleepwalking through life, this could be one of the best things that’s ever happened to him,” Scafaria said. “So I wanted to take the future away from him, he’s obviously going to chase the past, but whose going to pull him out of that?”
Scafaria said she had the idea floating around for a while but the script became more personal following the passing of her father.
“I think that’s when things really started to take shape because I had a brand new perspective on everything. So that had a big impact on the story,” Scafaria said.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” doesn’t attempt to answer any huge questions despite the grandiose context. There are moments where the dialogue falls flat, and Carell’s performance is unconvincing, but it takes a deft hand to find some humor in a story where the stakes couldn’t be higher while still maintaining some sense of realism.
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