Sleeper: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World | On Demand
Steve Carell stars in an unjustly ignored doomsday romance.
Boy meets girl. Boy wins girl. Boy, girl and the rest of humanity perish in a planet-consuming hellfire. That’s the tough-sell premise of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, an apocalyptic romcom that wastes little time—about ten seconds, really—announcing that its hangdog hero (Steve Carell) and his fellow earthlings are totally screwed. The film crashed and burned at the box office in June, suggesting that moviegoers might not be ready for a love story in which “happily ever after” translates to “until the 70-mile-wide asteroid wipes us out of existence.”
Such seriousness may have kept audiences away, but it’s also what makes Seeking a Friend an uncommonly thoughtful Hollywood entertainment. Despite a few eager-to-amuse episodes—an encounter with a diligent lawman, a pit stop at a wild-and-crazy chain restaurant—the film is scarcely a comedy. It’s more of a bittersweet road movie, sending Carell’s existentially bummed-out insurance salesman on a cross-country trip with Keira Knightley’s British beauty. More often than not, this odyssey is just an excuse to get the two characters talking; their end-of-days repartee, a trading of memories and regrets, benefits greatly from Carell’s well-honed comic desperation.
The ending, too, is deeply romantic—a humanistic corrective to Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Perhaps once we’ve cleared December 21, and the doomsday dread has receded a bit, viewers will grant this imperfect but daringly downbeat picture the second life it deserves. (Available on VOD, DVD and Blu-ray Tue 23.)