By Laurie Coker

Rating: C-

My sister just moved back to Austin, after splitting from her partner of seven years. On the day she arrived, I helped her unload her truck into storage, went to lunch at Whole Foods, and then took her to the Alamo Draft House South Lamar for a screening of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. While my intentions were to distract my sister from the difficult decision to leave her man and remind her of just how special Austin is, I walked away dissatisfied and she walked away with tears in her eyes. Bad choice, on my part, I guess. Neither of us particularly enjoyed the film, not because of its end of the world storyline, but mainly because of its slower than a snail’s pace.

With only three weeks to go before a monstrous asteroid disintegrates the earth, Dodge (Carell) an insurance salesman, walks away from his job and his life, seeking out the love he let get away, but not before he finds Penny (Knightley), a quirky neighbor with a crappy boyfriend and a sleeping disorder, to join him on his final adventure. Along the way, they find more than they bargain for in the last days of their lives.

Carell delights as usual. His Dodge is a real sad-sack and he is droll and witty. I like Carell, but Dodge is not much different than many of his other characters, so it is easy to be drawn in to his mundane life. Knightley annoys me in this. I know Penny is meant to be bohemian and earthy, but I find her more whiny and impish than interesting and likable. Still, the stars do play well together and I bought the relationship, the best, and for me, the only redeeming aspect of the tale. The film does have a few humorous moments that work, and there is constant underlining feeling (at least for me) that everything will work out just fine – as fine as can be expected anyway given the impending end of the world.

It really is the pacing that took its toll on me. The PG-13 rated Seeking a Friend for the End of the World did have me wondering what I might do were I to know the exact or near exact day the world would end. I hope, if I ever do, that I don’t choose a good-bye world party including heroin and wild sexual encounters alongside the cocktails, like Dodge’s friends or a dive off a tall building like one of his co-workers, but then I suppose I can’t predict how I’d behave. Through no real fault of it cast, director/screenwriter Lorene Scafaria can’t seem stabilize her story. There is the requisite shock following the first word of the world’s demise and the requisite looting, mayhem and madness, but then this doomsday rom-com drama drags mercilessly into a few odd encounters and stumbles into a bleak finale, which I sure meant to be touching, but hit me as painfully somber and anti-climactic.

Had I done a bit of research on the film, which I rarely do, prior to inviting my sister, I would not have taken her. She assures me that in spite of the emotional showing as we exited, the film pretty much did little to nothing to draw her in. I agree and I am placing a C- in my grade book. I say skip it and see something funnier or maybe visit Disney World the happiest place on Earth.

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