Combustible Celluloid
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With: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, Melanie Lynskey, Patton Oswalt, William Petersen, Derek Luke, Gillian Jacobs, T.J. Miller, Mark Moses, Martin Sheen
Written by: Lorene Scafaria
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
MPAA Rating: R for language including sexual references, some drug use and brief violence
Running Time: 101
Date: 06/18/2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Armageddon It On

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The screenwriter Lorene Scafaria, of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, makes her directorial debut with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and it's a stunner. Unlike many other romantic comedies of recent years, it's actually funny and actually romantic -- heartbreakingly so, since there's no "happily ever after" part. Her simple premise has conjured up a world in which even the most mundane behaviors somehow become infinitely important, or perhaps even funny. (If you had one week left to live, would you mow your lawn?)

A few weeks before the end of the world, Dodge (Steve Carell) finds himself alone; his wife has walked out on him. Drifting through the days, he runs into a neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), he has never spoken to before. A lost letter ties their fate together and they hit the road, Dodge intent on finding his first love, and Penny hoping to find a private plane to get back to her parents in England. While on the road they encounter all kinds of different people, each choosing to spend the final days in their own way. Also along the way, Dodge and Penny begin to discover that what's most important may actually be right in front of them.

The mood of the movie is somewhat bleak, but colored with fascinating characters, all of whom seem to have already existed in the margins of the story; they feel alive. Likewise, Scafaria's choice of music is sublime -- Penny carries an armful of LP records with her, even without a turntable to play them -- ranging from the Beach Boys to Scott Wilson. Each song rings with new meaning in this context, and each character choice has huge connotations. When the final choice is made, it means the world.

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