Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World [2012]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert's review -

In truth, I had not expected to like Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (written and directed by Lorene Scafaria) as much as I did.  Indeed, I only saw it on the Monday after the weekend of its release.  However, already our brother in our community had told me that he had seen it over the weekend and that he had liked it.  So I came to the film at least open to be surprised.  And I was ;-)

The film is fundamentally about a middle-aged insurance saleman named "Dodge" (played by Steve Carrell).  As the movie opens, Dodge and his wife are sitting in their car on a lazy summer's evening somewhere in New York City across from a park.  They are listening to the announcer on the radio give the grim news that "Space shuttle Deliverance, sent aloft on a mission to deflect the 30-mile in diameter asteroid that was heading for earth, was destroyed by a debris field as it approached the asteroid, and with it ended humanity's last hope of saving itself from annihilation which is expected to impact the earth in three weeks."  Having finished giving the grim news, the announcer tries to cheer-up his listeners saying: "But don't worry, we'll be playing all your favorite classic rock hits here on ... until the astroid does."  Upon hearing the devastating news, Dodge's wife opens car door on her side and runs off into the darkness of the park, never to be seen (by either Dodge or the audience) again.  And so it goes ...

The next portion of the film chronicles the various more or less expected reactions of civilization/humanity to the catastrophic news.  A lot of people stop going to work, many basic services therefore collapse.  For many, basic morality collapses as well.  There's a lot of looting, a lot of promiscuity.  An aquantaince of Dodge tells him, "Ever since the news, I've been sleeping with a different woman every night, sometimes with several woman at the same time.  This 'end of the world sex' with no consequences, no fear of commitment or disease is the best thing that's ever happened to me."  Indeed, a mutual friend of Dodge and his wife tries to seduce Dodge as well: "What does it matter now?"  And indeed, that becomes the central question of the film: If you knew that the world was going to end, how would you act?  What would become your priorities?

Indeed, the film proceeds rather predictably until a pivotal scene 2/3 into the movie occurs:  Dodge and the other principal character in the movie, his neighbor named  "Penny" (played by Keira Knightly) encounter a large group of people silently assembling by a beach to be presumably baptized by a priest-like man dressed in an alb and a stole.  No words were said in the entire scene, but not the message was, IMHO, unmistakable.

From that point onward, the tone of the movie changes and indeed "Dodge" changes.  Previous to that scene, "Dodge" had first felt sorry for himself because his wife had left him, all the other women in his life had left him, indeed his father had arguably left him and his mother when he was young.  Indeed, up until this point, he decided to spend his remaining days on earth in an end of life "quest" to see if he could meet-up with a former high school girl friend of his, who (after his wife having left him) he now remembered as having been "the love of [his] life."

After the baptismal scene, however, his focus changes.  Instead of continuing his search for the long-lost girlfriend, he decides to search out his long estranged father, Frank (played by Martin Sheen).  Finding him, (and it proved _not_ particularly hard to find him, arguably he knew _exactly_ where he was all the time) both he and his father are revealed to have legitimate complaints: "Why did you leave us?"  "Why didn't you ever, even when you turned an adult, search me out?"  Both realize that they both had reasons to ask the other for forgiveness.  AND EVEN WITH THE CLOCK "TICKING" THEY FOUND THAT THERE WAS "STILL TIME" TO DO SO.  Indeed, _after the reconciliation_ in a scene that puts tears in my eyes now as I recall it, at _dinner_ Dodge's father (again named "Frank") lifts up a glass and in face of a world crashing to its end in less than 2 weeks time, makes a toast "To the beginning of the world."

How does the film end?  Well, I'm not going to tell you, except that I do believe that it fits the direction of the movie and completes its point.  WHAT A GREAT MOVIE and WHAT A GREAT DEFENSE of CHOOSING TO DO GOOD even in the face of no perceivable advantage in doing so.

Over the years, I've come to like Steve Carrell's movies.  He has repeatedly chosen to play "small" decent people who chose to be good rather than seek "greater-ness."  Then I've had _enormous respect_ for Martin Sheen (Though I never met him, I've come to think of him "St. Martin of Los Angeles." It has a nice ring to it ;-) since my days of living and studying in Los Angeles in the mid-1980s-early 1990s.  It's good to see even Keira Knightly of "Pirates of the Caribbean" fame "choosing well" as well.  GOOD JOB FOLKS, and good job Lorene Scafaria too!  God bless you all!

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