Disaster film meets rom-com in 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World' - InfoNews

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Disaster film meets rom-com in 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World'

June 19, 2012 - 11:55 AM

TORONTO - There can be a positive side to the apocalypse, if you know where to look.

At least according to writer/director Lorene Scafaria, whose lovelorn characters in "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" find solace — and even happiness — as impending catastrophe weighs down on them.

The rookie filmmaker mashes disaster film tropes with rom-com antics in her ambitious script, which casts Steve Carell as a sad-sack insurance salesman brought out of his shell by a free-spirited neighbour, played by Keira Knightley.

Striking the right tone was a careful balancing act, says Scafaria, and that's why she insisted on directing the project when she pitched her screenplay back in 2008.

"It was tricky. Part of the reason I always wanted to direct it ... was just to maintain that (balance) as much as possible," says Scafaria, who makes her directorial debut with the film's release Friday.

"It sort of helped, with the writing process, to realize that these are really two different genres that I'm colliding together and to use (those differences) for the script and not fight it too much.... In an end-of-the-world movie you have kind of a riot (scene) but in the romantic comedy world that riot sort of needed to be a break-up scene."

Carell stars as the doleful Dodge, a soft-spoken salesman whose wife leaves him when they learn the Earth is about to be annihilated by a massive asteroid.

While his friends dive into a frenzied binge of debauchery, Dodge can only moon over his lifelong regret — that he let his high school sweetheart Olivia slip away.

Meanwhile, his flighty neighbour Penny is in the throes of an ugly breakup and she offers to help Dodge find Olivia if he can get her home to England to spend her final days with family.

The unlikely duo set off on the road trip to end all road trips — along the way encountering the best, the worst — and the most bizarre —facets of humanity.

It's an epic backdrop for what is essentially an intimate relationship movie, says Scafaria, who hopes the dark undertones don't overshadow what she says is an otherwise uplifting film.

"I've always thought death is there to remind us that life is important," she says of the larger themes.

"If nothing else, you've realized what's important in life and it's about finding value in whatever time we've got."

She credits Carell with bringing a tender charm to her flawed hero, the type of unassuming guy she admits she'd fall head-over-heels for in real life.

"I always loved romantic comedies but it felt like the male-female relationships in them would (feature) a manchild and the woman is sort of like this type-A kind of uptight person who teaches him to grow up and that's not my experience," she says.

"I've always been a little bit more like the free spirit who's sort of drawn to the withdrawn man and so in that way I feel like I've been writing this character of Dodge in different incarnations and different scripts. I've always pictured Steve Carell in them for the last like 10 years but I never imagined getting him for this."

Scafaria's first script to make it to the big screen was 2008's "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist," a romantic comedy in which Michael Cera and Kat Dennings play an unlikely pair who are thrown together while on a meandering quest.

She readily acknowledges that her two produced scripts share some similarities.

"Of all the scripts I wrote, it is kind of surprising that these two are the ones that got made," says the 34-year-old New Jersey native.

"I mean, 'Nick and Norah's' was my ninth script and this was the 18th.... I guess I've always been interested in that kind of idea that you never know where love comes from, it can kind of blindside you and it doesn't always looks exactly how you imagined it would be."

She traces the roots of "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" to the angst she felt following the terrorist attacks of 9-11. Scafaria says she moved to L.A. from New York a week before the twin towers were struck.

"I was sort of alone out there without friends or family and found myself kind of desperate for human contact. That was sort of the very, very beginning, kind of thinking how events like this can affect you in a very small way," she says.

"(Later), it was ... more about how I feel about romantic comedies and how they've gotten kind of formulaic and you know the stakes aren't that high. And so I thought, 'Let's give them some high stakes.'"

"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" opens Friday.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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