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June 23, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST
With just three weeks before Armageddon, it’s the beginning of the end of days. As the countdown starts Dodge (Steve Carell), a boring, mopey, sad sack insurance salesman, is abandoned by his wife.
While friends host last suppers, fulfill bucket lists and reconcile regrets, he couldn’t care less. By chance and circumstance, he befriends the flakey, vinyl obsessed, homesick Penny (Keira Knightley).
She inadvertently ruins Dodge’s final days by revealing his wife was having an affair. Miserable and alone, Dodge thinks about his high school sweetheart. After reading a love letter from her that’s been in Penny’s mailbox for three months, he decides to find her. In hasty quid-pro-quo agreement Dodge asks Penny to help him track down his ex, in return he will help Penny get back to her family in England.
The reasonably well-paced and plotted story is slightly thrown off by a directionless third quarter, but don’t worry, the world and the film comes to an end soon. Overall, this dark comedy with a dash of romance manages to avoid being skeevy or shallow considering the age difference of the leading actors. Seeking A Friend stays grounded. The filmmakers could have had the characters do any number of ridiculous things and justified it because civilization is in its last days. Thankfully, they do not.
Carell, the go-to actor for socially awkward male characters, keeps Dodge fairly high on the ineptitude scale. The performance isn’t necessarily stale, but he seems to be the same sappy loser Carell has defaulted to since departing ‘The Office.’ And unlike the other pathetic guy he’s played, Dodge isn’t all that sympathetic. He’s set himself up to remain hopeless. Knightly however, is brilliant in her most modern, normal role since ‘Bend it Like Beckham.’ She delivers the spunk, quirk and comedy.
In a twist of expectations this film does not have a dramatic, ominous score to signal impending doom but rather a remarkably ironic yet bubbly soundtrack. Near the end Dodge puts on “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” by The Walker Brothers.
Conservative performances, endlessly talented actors, and real characters in an unreal situation result in a slightly predictable but refreshingly tender conclusion:
There’s no point in planning your life, especially when world is about to end.