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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World(2012)
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.
For more about Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and the Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray release, see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 27, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Melanie Lynskey, William Petersen, Adam Brody, Martin Sheen
Director: Lorene Scafaria
» See full cast & crew
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 27, 2012
What are your plans for the evening of December 20 this year? Will you be partying hearty, or anxiously watching a clock's hands tick the seconds by until the fateful moment of midnight arrives? Yes, folks, the latest apocalypse we've all been facing is quickly approaching, this time on December 21, 2012, at least according to those highly questionable "experts" who insist the ancient Mayans prophesied the end of the world on that day, something that actual Mayan scholars tend to at the very least dispute vociferously. Those of you who are old enough may recall we faced another apocalypse as 1999 transitioned to 2000, an epochal change that was supposedly going to send us back to the stone age due to our collective computers' inability to process the transformation to a new millennium, since the original code writers had only allowed for clocks to deal with years starting with 19. (Isn't it kind of ironic that this is more or less the same idea, albeit from a technological standpoint, that informs the current obsession with the supposed "end" of the Mayan calendar? After all if 19's can't roll over to 20's, doesn't time just stop?)
All of these real or imagined worries are perhaps indicative of something buried rather deep in the human consciousness which most people are loathe to really think about—namely, their own mortality. Suddenly when these (hopefully) faux apocalypses show up, suddenly there's a lot of soul searching and introspection going on, at least for those who are willing to look at their lives and wonder what it's all been about. That is the major conceit of the often wonderfully funny Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, the debut directorial effort by Lorene Scafaria, whom some will recognize as the author of and bit player in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist. Scafaria also wrote Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and she brings the same native intelligence (and often briskly dark humor) to this project that she also lent to the previous film. Steve Carell plays doleful insurance salesman Dodge (more about that name later), who as the film begins is in a car with his wife, listening to a radio announcer calmly inform people that the world is going to end in about three weeks due to a huge asteroid belt that is rapidly approaching Earth's direction and which a space mission has been unable to take out. Dodge's wife (played by Carell's real-life wife Nancy) takes one look at him after the announcement and just ups and leaves the car right there, as if to say "There's no way I'm spending my last three weeks alive with you." That sets the film out on its alternately hysterical and bittersweet journey as Dodge attempts to come to terms not just with his own impending mortality (as if that weren't enough), but also several major life choices he's made through the years.
Part of what makes Seeking a Friend for the End of the World so charming, albeit surreal at times, is how deadpan it all is about Mankind facing imminent destruction. Dodge still goes to work, where several of his co-workers are in various states of disarray trying to process this new state of affairs, and he even deals with one potential customer trying to increase his insurance coverage to handle the upcoming apocalypse. Even Dodge's Hispanic housekeeper who speaks very little English seems to be confused as to why Dodge keeps telling her she doesn't need to come for these final three weeks. She only seems satisfied when Dodge relents, at which point she cheerily states, "See you next Thursday". This gives the film a weirdly dissociative quality which is perfectly in tune with Scafaria's rather piquant sense of humor. (I won't spoil any of the major punchlines, but one running gag is the absolute inanity of the news coverage of the impending doom. My wife, who was a top-rated news anchor in several major markets before she deigned to settle down with me to raise a family, has stated the shortest measurable time is that between some horrible calamity occurring and someone in a newsroom making a politically incorrect joke about it. That element is passed over here in favor of a laugh out loud approach that emphasizes a weirdly sanguine reaction that provides several of the film's biggest guffaws.)
Dodge quickly realizes that it's pointless to keep working and he soon finds himself dealing with an upset neighbor named Penny (Keira Knightley) who lives in the same apartment house as he does and who has just gone through a loud and messy breakup with her boyfriend, something Dodge witnesses in passing. It turns out that Penny has been getting Dodge's mail for years and had never told him about it, and included in the huge stack of envelopes she hands over to him is a letter from Dodge's high school sweetheart Olivia, who confesses that Dodge had been the one true love of her life. That gives Dodge (and Penny, who feels incredibly guilty for not having gotten the mail to him earlier) a mission—to seek out and find Olivia before asteroids rain down on our planet. The two barely manage to escape what is presumed to be New York as riots begin breaking out across the city (in a rather startling tonal shift from the film's rather loosey goosey opening spirit).
The rest of the film plays out like an apocalyptic version of one of those old Bing Crosby – Bob Hope Road films; maybe this could have been subtitled The Road to Ruin, or something like that. In exchange for Penny helping Dodge to track down Olivia, Dodge in turn promises to help hook Penny up with a pilot who can fly her back to England to be with her family during the "end times", since all commercial aviation has been grounded. The film then plays out episodically, even anecdotally, as Dodge and Penny come to know each other and interact with some rather odd characters along the way. Through it all Scafaria manages to walk a rather dangerous tightrope that is balanced precariously between hilarity and horror. It's a minor miracle that the film is as generally successful as it is, a testament not only to Scafaria's writing acumen but also her burgeoning directorial craft.
There are some missteps along the way. Dodge, whose name is obviously a play on the fact that the character has been running from harsher realities all of his life, ends up reuniting with his estranged father (Martin Sheen) late in the film, a character who of course turns out to be the pilot who can get Penny back to her beloved parents and siblings. The montage of the once estranged father and son coming to a new understanding, with Penny adding to the warm fuzzy feeling, is just a major miscalculation and seriously threatens to upset the veritable apple cart only moments before the film's rather bittersweet but extremely effective denouement. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World may be a comedy (albeit a very black one) on its surface, but it's a surprisingly thought provoking affair that should force the more ruminative audience members to contemplate an inescapable fact: sooner or later, we all meet our own individual apocalypse, and we'd better be prepared for it and make sure we've settled our emotional accounts beforehand.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray, Video Quality
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Universal Films (and Focus Features) with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 2.35:1. This is an intentionally ironic light and bright presentation for the most part, one that travels the highways and byways of the eastern United States and presents one picturesque home after another, with everything popping quite brilliantly throughout this high definition outing. Contrast is consistent and solid, helping to prevent any lack of shadow detail when the film does dally in darker environments, and fine object detail is crisply delivered, especially in the film's many close-ups, where you can virtually count the pores in Carell's face at times. Colors are nicely robust and well saturated. There are one or two extremely minor stability issues in some passing shots of cityscapes (notably in the riot sequence), but they're quite negligible in the overall scheme of things.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World features a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is quite subtle most of the time, but which is nonetheless highly effective and surprisingly immersive. The vast bulk of this film plays out in quieter dialogue scenes, with the majority of those being between Carell and Knightley, and as should be expected, those sound just fine, with absolute clarity and precision. What may surprise some listeners is how vivid the soundscape becomes in at least a couple of sequences. The riot scene is awash in great crowd noises spilling through the surrounds, and some equally great discrete channelization of dialogue as Carell and Knightley run panicked through the streets. The film's denouement (which I won't spoil for those who haven't yet seen it) also has some extremely effective sound design, including some aggressive LFE. The film's source cues (which include the repeated use of "This Guy's in Love With You", Herb Alpert's stab at vocalizing from 1968) also sound great.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is devastatingly funny at times, but it's a humor tinged with an overall melancholy, perhaps one reason some critics didn't really cotton to this piece. I personally found it absolutely wonderful for the most part, a near pitch perfect examination of two lost souls realizing they don't have much time to gain equilibrium, for better or worse. Those with a jaded sense of humor will probably get more of a kick out of this film than others who might want something less intentionally ironic, but for cynics like myself, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World comes Highly recommended.
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Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Seeking a Friend for the End of the World Blu-ray - August 23, 2012
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release a combo pack edition of Lorene Scafaria's Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012), starring Steve Carell, Keira Knightley and Melanie Lynskey. The release will be available ...
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