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Film / Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

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If your intentions are pure
I'm seeking a friend for the end of the world
Chris Cornell, "Preaching the End of the World"

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World is a 2012 apocalyptic romantic comedy-drama film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria.

As we open, an asteroid 70 miles wide is on a collision course with Earth, and the obligatory shuttle mission attempting to blow it up has just failed. The End of the World as We Know It is in three weeks.

Dodge (Steve Carell) is an insurance salesman whose wife leaves him upon hearing the news, as she doesn't want to spend her last weeks on Earth with a man she doesn't love. Penny (Keira Knightley) is a neighbor Dodge has never spoken to before, who's just broken up with her boyfriend. Dodge barely misses his wife but is heartsick over a high-school love who got away; Penny is furious with herself for missing the last flight back to her family in her native England. Naturally, they team up.

This film provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: A few freeze-frame shots reveal the movie takes place in March or April of 2021, about 9 years after the movie’s release.
  • Actor Allusion: During his final broadcast, the news anchor played by Mark Moses mentions that his two sons are named Henry and Paul. Henry is the name of Mark Moses' character on The Practice while Paul is the name of his character on Desperate Housewives.
  • Always Know a Pilot: Dodge's neighbor Penny wants to get home to the UK to see her family before the asteroid wipes out humanity, fortunately Dodge's dad is a pilot. Most of the movie is the trip to try and get to him and his plane.
  • Apocalypse Anarchy: An asteroid is headed for earth and people are doing everything from heroin to hiring assassins to kill themselves.
  • Apocalypse How: At least Planetary/Species Extinction, possibly Total Extinction.
  • Auto Erotica: Dodge and Penny have sex in their car after leaving a restaurant.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Naturally, considering the title pretty much gives away what happens in the end. Everyone dies, and Dodge never reconciles with his ex-wife Linda, but Dodge and Penny at least find each other, sharing some happiness in their last days, going out smiling while together.
  • Black Comedy: Given that it's the end of the world...
    • Suburban adults are having an "end of the world" party, which includes shooting up heroin and chanting "drink! drink!" as a preteen girl chugs a martini.
    • If you care to spend your last weeks on earth working at Dodge's insurance company, the position of Chief Financial Officer is open, seeing as how the folks in upper management keep throwing themselves off the roof. Raise your hand if you want to be CFO!
      • At least every day is Casual Friday from now on.
    • The newscaster announces that the asteroid is arriving sooner than expected. Oh, and don't forget to set your clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Bland-Name Product: Friendsy's, a riff on restaurant chain Friendly's, where everyone is your friend, and they're spending the last days on Earth partying with whoever comes in.
  • Brick Joke: Dodge's friends try to set him up with Karen early at their party. Later in the movie when Dodge returns to his apartment, there's a note from Karen stuck to the door.
  • The Cameo: Nancy Carell as Dodge's wife. Rob Corddry and Connie Britton as Warren and Diane. Patton Oswalt and Melanie Lynskey are end-of-the-world partiers. Gillian Jacobs and T.J. Miller as the Friendsy's waiters. Martin Sheen as Dodge's father. Willam Petersen as the guy who offers Dodge and Penny a ride and mistakes Dodge for the hitman he hired to kill him. Jim O'Heir as a kindly cop. Adam Brody as Penny's deadbeat ex, Owen.
  • Changed My Mind, Kid: Penny turns the plane around and chooses to be with Dodge, rather than go back to England.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The ad for the assassination service in the first few minutes.
  • Clueless Deputy: There's one spending what little time he has left handing out traffic tickets.
  • Cool Crown: Karen wears a tiara, because it's part of everything she never wore before.
  • Covers Always Lie: The movie poster shows the asteroid falling towards a city. We never see the asteroid itself.
  • Died Happily Ever After: Dodge and Penny reunite and die together, both having found love in the most unlikely of places. Dodge even calls Penny the love of his life and they both die smiling.
  • Dirty Coward: Owen, who uses Penny as a human shield when gunfire erupts during a riot and Screams Like a Little Girl while cowering behind her.
  • The Ditz: Penny comes across as a bit of an airhead (though a very sweet natured one). For instance she has been getting Dodge's mail for three years but it never seems to have occurred to her to tell him about it. She also cluelessly breaks it to Dodge that his wife ("your roommate") was cheating on him.
  • Downer Beginning: Not only does the film begin with the final attempt to save humanity from Matilda the asteroid failing completely, giving the human race only three weeks before extinction, but Dodge’s remark about “missing their exit” causes his wife Linda to look at him with disgust and then abandon her now-ex husband, leaving Dodge alone.
  • Dying Alone: The biggest driving force behind Dodge, Penny, heck, most everyone in this movie is attempting to subvert or defy this trope. They're all going to die anyway, so they just want to be with their loved ones one last time.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: It's right there in the title.
  • "Everybody Dies" Ending: The movie ends as the asteroid hits, implying that all of humanity is killed.
  • Everyman: Dodge, who works selling insurance and lives a perfectly depressingly mundane life.
  • Fade to White: As Roger Ebert's review points out, there is literally no other way to end this movie.
  • Five Stages of Grief: Present in many such characters.
    • Denial - Dodge's cleaning lady Elsa carries on as normal, acting as if nothing has changed. A cop is also still putting people in jail.
    • Anger - people riot in the streets and have wild parties to cope.
    • Bargaining - Speck and his friends have built a shelter they hope will withstand the blast.
    • Depression - one man hires a hitman to assassinate him before the deadline. A few people in Dodge's company commit suicide too.
    • Acceptance - the people on the beach, having a party and enjoying the time they have left. Dodge and Penny likewise fall into this, hoping to be with loved ones for the end.
  • Foregone Conclusion: This is part of the premise; everyone and everything is doomed, no matter what they decide to do with their final weeks.
  • From Bad to Worse: After Dodge returns home, the news reports that the asteroid is arriving a week earlier than expected. Then they give a friendly reminder to set your clocks ahead an hour for Daylight Savings Time.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Dodge realizes (too late) that he was living this trope.
  • Hipster: Owen, Penny's ex-boyfriend, fits the modern stereotype with his fashion sense, musical taste, spinelessness, immaturity, and acoustic guitar playing.
  • Hope Spot: Friendsy's, and the ensuing scene in the car. It's one of the few times we see Dodge genuinely smile.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Penny talks about Dodge's "roommate and her boyfriend", not realising the roommate was actually his wife...
  • Irony:
    • Dodge muses that he married Linda purely because he didn't want to die alone. When their imminent doom is announced, Linda leaves him straight away.
    • Penny laments that she missed out on seeing her family loads of times because she was too busy in her current relationship, and resolves to spend her last days with her family. She turns down the chance to be with her family in order to be with Dodge.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Dodge puts Penny on the plane to her family, though it means dying alone.
  • Just Before the End: A month before it actually.
  • The Last Dance: Notably the first party Dodge goes to - complete with drinking children, heroin and fireworks.
  • Like You Were Dying: Minor example since Dodge doesn't really change that much. But he lets go of his past love Olivia in favor of enjoying the time has left with Penny.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Penny describes herself as a recovering serial monogamist.
  • Manchild: Owen.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: Penny embodies this trope, from her perpetually chipper demeanor to her looseness in relationships to her musical taste, and especially how she meets Dodge (see Meet Cute below). However unlike most Manic Pixies, she has a backstory and motivations that don't involve fixing Dodge's life.
  • Meaningful Name: Dodge.
  • Meet Cute: Dodge first encounters Penny crying outside his window, and offers for her to come in.
    Penny: (before climbing in through Dodge's window) "I promise not to steal anything if you promise not to rape me."
  • Mood Whiplash: Oh boy does it ever.
  • The Mountains of Illinois: Or, in this case, New Jersey.
  • No Antagonist: The hitman is as close to one as this movie gets, unless one considers the inanimate asteroid to be it.
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: The entire Friendsy's scene.
  • Pretty in Mink: Karen wears a mink coat, because it's part of everything she never wore before.
  • Road Trip Romance: Dodge is trying to find his high school sweetheart, while Penny is trying to find a plane to take her back to her family in England.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: In the beginning of the movie, a crew died in a last ditch attempt to stop Matilda the asteroid from hitting Earth - and failed.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: In the first scene of the movie, Dodge and his wife are listening to a radio station giving updates on the apocalyptic situation. Then the DJ starts playing The Beach Boys' "Wouldn't it Be Nice".
  • Take a Moment to Catch Your Death: The trucker, upon realizing Dodge is not the hitman he hired to kill himself, begins palling it up with him only to be shot in the neck by that very hitman.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: Dodge pauses while quoting a customer for insurance (the Armageddon package) to puke under his desk.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Owen is abandoned in the middle of a riot and is notably not back in the apartment when it is next seen.
    • Of course, we all know he died eventually when the asteroid hit.
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: In this case, Dodge.

"I'm really glad I got to know you."