Seeking A Friend For The end Of The World – Lorene Scafaria
The camera always catches you acting. The most common fault in movie acting performances is doing too much. Keira Knightley is a case in point. A naturally animated personality, she has not yet learned, or so far been well-enough directed, to trust the camera to capture that persona; or in turn to trust us to see it when it’s there. She’s always doing stuff on camera: grimaces, giggles, working the eyes, shrugs etc etc. The worse the script the more she does it. She does it a lot in SAFFTEOTW – if not the silliest title of the year, certainly the most off-putting.
Given Keira’s hyper-animation, what kind of perversity cast Steve Carell to play opposite her? If we want to tell KK to do less; one has an overwhelming urge to beg Carell to do something in SAFF. Anything will do. It is a thespian paradox that though you’re cast as a boring insurance salesman in need of a charisma transplant – you mustn’t act like one; you must act being one. To be fair, far better actors than Carell and Knightley would struggle in vain against Director Scafaria’s banal, flat script.
To what request is “are you sh*tting me?” the reply?
“I want to make a romantic comedy about the end of the world which ends with the destruction of the Earth and the extinction of all life upon it.”
Exploring the difference the certainty of extinction might make to our sense of ourselves and relationships, personal and social, is an interesting idea as Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia recently proved. Wit, irony, cynicism, fatalism, sardonic humour, philosophy, spirituality, mortality etc etc – I can make sense of any of these: but as a context for a ‘meet-the-girl-of-my-dreams’ romance – it sucks.
But never say never: I can imagine that it could work but it would need a better writer, better director and better cast than this to bring it off. A parlour game: what song would you choose to accompany the end of days; the end of the world? Well Ms Scaffaria’s choice is The Walker Brothers The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore (1966). Literal or what? Following an earlier choice of the Hollies The Air That I Breathe without a trace of irony I think you get the drift of Ms Scafaria’s artistic sensibilities.
A largely catatonic insurance salesman ‘Dodge’ (Carell) has been divorced by his wife. Faced by the imminent destruction of the earth which in 3 weeks’ time, is going to be potted into oblivion by a wayward cue-ball asteroid, he frets about his loss and can’t muster any enthusiasm either for the wholesale rioting or feral humping that unsurprisingly ensues. He discovers that his dippy, narcoleptic neighbour Penny has been accumulating his mis-delivered personal mail for about 12 months and when she finally hands it over, he finds a letter from an old flame (Olivia), the love of his life (right move there then by his ex-wife), saying she is now divorced and has never stopped loving him.
He rescues Penny from a WOS (Waste of Space) boyfriend with whom no girl in her senses would want to spend a dirty weekend in Brighton let alone the 3 weeks before the end of the world. Penny is so ‘Knightleyed’ and English you expect her to pack her hockey stick and egg and cress sandwiches for the road trip to re-unite Dodgy Dodge and Olivia. Dodge meanwhile resolves to try to find some way to help Penny get back to Blighty in order to share instantaneous immolation with Mummy and Daddy somewhere in the leafy glades of middle class suburbia.
“This extinction thingy next Friday.”
“ I do hope you’ve cancelled the papers.”
“And our subscription to Fieldsports Magazine.”
“Yes dear. All taken care of.”
Penny and Dodgy have a few adventures, well incidents; on the trip to Chez Olivia much of which is accomplished with the unlikely aid of what looks like an American clone of the SMART car. This seems like product placement gone mad.
“Smart car – the only way to travel to eternity. 0% finance available.”
The rest is pretty much drawing by numbers and I’ll leave you dear reader to fill in the blanks. SAFF is too anodine and bland to truly dislike. Knightley’s Roedeany charm more irritates than offends: and Carell’s performance is marginally less animated than Christian Bale’s Batman – in the mask.
If 164 minutes this weekend with the rising Dark Knight left me at times losing the will to live: 101 minutes of SAFF finally removed any desire to.
Filed under: Lorene Scafaria