It was the possibility of seeing Keira Knightley successfully break out of her typecast roles which played a big part in drawing me to this film, and she doesn’t disappoint. She has chosen a very different role in order to make this change and vinyl-loving, weed-smoking Penny is more than removed enough from her normal characters. Still, despite good performances turned in by both Knightley and Steve Carell, the film’s real strength lies in its approach to the apocalypse. All of the expected scenes depicting; looting, rioting, despair, suicides etc are all there but have been pushed to the background and instead the addresses the calmer, arguably more human response. The film focuses on normal everyday individuals and how their relationships alter when threatened by an apocalypse, which this time around is in the shape of an asteroid set on a fatal collision course with Earth. There are enough characters representing alternative responses to the threat that you can point to one and say, yep that right there would be me drinking like a maniac/sleeping with everyone in sight/rebuilding broken relationships etc which is nice and could well prompt after film chats about how you would see the world out.
I’m surprised that the film isn’t listed as having two screenwriters because it certainly feels as if multiple pens worked on this. At points in the film the screenplay’s excellently restrained grasp over the material starts to show signs of slipping; its freshness and boldness starts to turn generic whilst the well crafted dialogue has, by the end, fully slipped straight into cliché. It feels as if director and writer Lorene Scafaria was a good way into the screenplay and suddenly changed her mind over the direction of the characters’ relationship. This change isn’t compensated for and we get sudden jarring developments in the relationship between the two characters which don’t feel at all justified.
Despite not being quite as unique or emotionally engaging as I had hoped, Seeking a Friend is still an enjoyable film. The first half is more inclined towards comedy and succeeds at being thought provoking as well as funny. The second half also has its humorous moments but is really attempting to drive the emotional side to the story. There are several nicely executed moments which should have lasting resonance but the script ultimately lets itself down, and the emotional engagement that we should have had with the characters is compromised by cliché and a faltering screenplay.