‘End of the World’ reminds us of what matters
Insurance salesman Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell, right) and his quirky, kooky neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley, left), accompanied by an orphaned canine friend, embark on a journey of discovery in the earth’s waning days in the thought-provoking new comedy, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012). Cast: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen, William Peterson, Patton Oswalt, Adam Brody, Tonita Castro, Melanie Lynskey, Connie Britton, Rob Corddry, T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs, Bob Stephenson, Derek Luke. Director: Lorene Scafaria. Screenplay: Lorene Scafaria. http://focusfeatures.com/seeking_a_friend_for_the_end_of_the_world
Adrift and looking for guidance on how to handle his remaining days, lovable, lonely Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell, right) seeks advice from his hard-partying friend Roache (Patton Oswalt, left) in director Lorene Scafaria’s “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
If you knew for certain that the world was going to end in three weeks, how would you spend your time? Wrapping up the loose ends of your life? Making amends with those you’ve wronged (and who have wronged you)? Engaging in acts of unbridled hedonism, as if you were fulfilling a “bucket list” on steroids and on an accelerated schedule? Participating in acts of violence and/or retribution for which you were fairly sure there’d be no earthly consequences? Committing suicide? Turning a blind eye to your fate and attempting to live life as normally as possible? Or would you launch something entirely new, regardless of the abbreviated time frame and impending circumstances? Those are all questions raised in the thought-provoking new comedy, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
New York City insurance salesman Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) doesn’t have much of a life, and it’s about to get a whole lot shorter when he – and the rest of the world – learn that the earth is facing certain doom in three weeks when an asteroid named Matilda is about to impact the planet. With his wife having left him and his job offering him little solace, Dodge tries to determine how to spend his remaining time. He looks to others for inspiration, such as his housekeeper Elsa (Tonita Castro), who puts her head down and plugs away at her daily routine as if nothing were wrong. And then there are his friends Diane (Connie Britton), Warren (Rob Corddry) and Roache (Patton Oswalt), who live out lives of unfulfilled pleasure-seeking, as if there were no tomorrow (literally). Dodge’s friends even try fixing him up with a new love interest, Karen (Melanie Lynskey), so that he won’t have to face Armageddon alone.
Well-meaning friends seek to set up jilted insurance salesman Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell, right) with a potential new love interest, Karen (Melanie Lynskey, left), in the new comedy, “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
But these options offer little appeal to Dodge, mainly because he doesn’t really know what he wants – and apparently hasn’t for most of the time he’s been on the planet. He’s spent most of his life drifting through a mundane day-to-day routine, letting things happen to him (such as his father walking out on him as a child and his wife leaving him as an adult), evading most forms of risk taking (he’s appropriately named “Dodge”), and looking for various forms of security (consider his profession) to give him a semblance of peace of mind, even if such assurances are innately illusionary. All of which leaves Dodge with the same questions that have been weighing heavily upon him all his life and only 21 days to resolve them.
It’s not long, however, before Dodge gets some inspiration about what to do and seemingly from out of left field. He has an unlikely encounter with his quirky, kooky, spontaneous neighbor, Penny (Keira Knightley), who tearfully drops in on him after having a falling out with her boyfriend, Owen (Adam Brody). Dodge and Penny have an awkward chemistry at first, but a curious compatibility begins to emerge, and it’s a good thing that it does, for they will soon come to depend on one another.
As New York becomes overrun with mob violence, Dodge and Penny flee the city, hitting the road to find sanctuary. They also have plenty of time to talk about what goals they’d like to fulfill with what remaining time they have left. Penny wants to visit her family in England for one last time, while Dodge decides to look for his long-lost high school sweetheart, the love of his life, in hopes of a last-minute reconciliation. Strangely enough, each has the means to help the other realize these ambitions, too, increasing the likelihood of fulfillment while strengthening the emerging bond between them.
And so they set off on an Oz-like road trip together, encountering all kinds of colorful characters along the way, including a suicidal trucker (William Peterson), a pair of hyper-zealous restaurant workers (T.J. Miller, Gillian Jacobs), an overly perfunctory policeman (Bob Stephenson), one of Penny’s former love interests (Derek Luke), a commune of loving life celebrants and one of Dodge’s long-lost relatives (Martin Sheen). They partake in an array of adventures and experience a range of emotions, but, through it all, they have each other to give themselves comfort in the face of what lies ahead.
With the approaching end of the Mayan calendar and its often-misconstrued implications of Armageddon, the so-called 2012 phenomenon has been prominent in the minds of many of us of late, so a film with a narrative like this and its attendant apocalyptic themes couldn’t have been better timed. But, regardless of how events will ultimately play out in the reality of the real world, the movie serves to remind us of some significant concepts about life and living that we would all be wise to take to heart, whether or not the world is about to come to an end. And how we approach these ideas all comes down to what beliefs and outlooks we hold, the driving forces in the conscious creation process that creates the existence we experience.
The world’s demise in three weeks in the film symbolically illustrates just how quickly this thing we call life can come to an end. Yet many of us often find ourselves going through it believing that it will go on forever. We put off doing and saying things that matter, confident that we’ll be able to get to them later. But will there indeed be a “later” available to us in order to do so?
These circumstances point out the importance of taking care of business while we have the opportunity. This is not to suggest that we should live our lives as if we were perpetually on the precipice of imminent doom, frantically attempting to squeeze everything in before the end arrives.
Overzealous restaurant workers Katie (Gillian Jacobs, second from left) and Darcy (T.J. Miller, second from right) try to raise the spirits of Penny (Keira Knightley, left) and Dodge (Steve Carell, right) in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
However, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that our time on the terrestrial plane is finite and that we should make the most of it, doing and saying the things we deem significant while we have the chance. This involves living life consciously
, not drifting through it as if we were in a fog (and a self-created one at that). It means living life authentically
, true to our innermost beliefs and intents and not as a means to live up to the expectations of others. It also means being present
, living our lives in the current moment, for it is the only one over which we have any direct, meaningful control. In short, we should all seek to fulfill our heart’s desires, without regret and while time permits, for they reflect who we really are and what we really want to get out of our lives.
In seeking to accomplish this, we should pay particular attention to the love we express. All too often we wait too long to show such feelings to others (or to ourselves), and, in the end, either we shortchange ourselves or fail entirely in fulfilling this goal. Clearly we should avail ourselves of the opportunity to do this while we can, for, ultimately, fewer things in this life are more worthwhile than this. One would hope that sharing our love automatically draws others to us, so that we’ll have them in our presence as the end nears – and so that we needn’t resort to tactics as desperate as having to advertise for someone to go through that experience with us so we don’t depart alone, as the film’s title suggests.
Speck (Derek Luke), one of Penny’s former love interests, is among the many colorful characters that Penny and Dodge encounter on their road trip in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
The end of the world happens for someone every day, even if not in a manner as dramatic as that portrayed in the film. Indeed, no matter how much we might want to ignore this eventuality, everything ultimately has its end, which is why we should always strive to make the most of every moment we’re around and try to have no regrets about how we spend that time. But, even with that in mind, we should also maintain sight of the fact that “the end” is never really the end, either. While our time as physical beings on the terrestrial plane may have its limits, our departure from this reality does not signify the end of our soul or the infinite journey in which it’s engaged. As anyone who has undergone a near death experience (NDE) or engaged in reincarnational regression/progression exercises can attest, our present lives are merely chapters in a never-ending book of experiences. And, while it might seem natural that we would feel some sadness over the current episode’s ending, we can always rest assured that there are countless more chapters that lie ahead and hope that we carry forth into them some of the joy and wisdom we amass in this incarnation.
“Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is a smart, thoughtful picture with just the right mix of laughs, romance and ennui. Its crisp writing is quite refreshing, especially in its edgy humor (given the nature of the film, it would have been extremely disappointing if the script had held anything back in this regard). The performances are all top-notch, too, especially among the supporting cast, who really add flavor to the picture’s overall tone. The same is true of the movie’s thoughtful soundtrack, which is a real knock-out. The film’s pacing could be a bit better at times, especially in a few of the protracted one-on-one conversations between Dodge and Penny, but this shortcoming does little to detract from the movie’s overall quality.
An orphaned canine befriends a lonely Dodge Peterson (Steve Carell) in “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.” Photo by Darren Michaels, courtesy of Focus Features.
When the end is near, I’m sure all of us would like to say that we’d gotten things right during the time that we had. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” reminds us of that – and then some. We’d be wise to pay attention to what it has to say, before it’s too late.
Copyright © 2012, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
A lifelong movie fan and longtime student of metaphysics, Brent Marchant is the author of "Get the Picture: Conscious Creation Goes to the Movies," a reader-friendly look at how the practice of conscious creation (also known as the law of attraction) is illustrated through film. He's also Featured Contributor, Arts & Entertainment, for VividLife magazine (www.VividLife.me) and Contributing Writer and Consultant for Master Heart Magazine (www.MasterHeartMagazine.com). His additional writing credits include contributions to BeliefNet (www.BeliefNet.com) and to Library Journal and Reality Change magazines. Brent maintains an ongoing blog about metaphysical cinema on his web site, www.brentmarchant.com. He's a frequent guest on internet and broadcast radio shows and a presenter at various conscious creation conferences. You can follow him on Facebook and LinkedIn, and you can reach him by email at email@example.com. Brent holds a B.A. in magazine journalism and history from Syracuse University and resides in Chicago.