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Canada Day & Independence Day Double Feature: Watching Last Night (1998) and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Posted in Americana, Canadiana, The Media Cart with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2013 by TheCanadian
Deja vu! We have been in this elevator before, no?

Deja vu!
We have been in this
elevator before, no?

So the other night, my wife sat me down in front of the TV. There was a movie she’d been wanting to see, and had saved it to watch with me. It was a Steve Carell movie, and I like him well enough, I suppose, so I was game. We sat down and started this up, but weren’t into it for more than about two minutes before a powerful feeling of deja vu overcame me.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley, bears more than a passing resemblance to the film Last Night — and no, not the Last Night with Keira Knightley, but the Last Night with Don McKellar and Sandra Oh. And I know it’s not an accidental similarity in the same way that I know that Garden State is not coincidentally like Beautiful Girls. But while that piece of shit Garden State is clearly a rip off of Beautiful Girls, I’d view Seeking a Friend as something more akin to an homage, or an “inspired by” kind of a thing as the two films embrace similar themes and ideas in their respective narratives.

Our previous elevator.

Our previous elevator.

Last Night examines how a handful of people spend their final hours before a cosmic anomaly ends the world. It seems that the earth is being drawn into the sun, and there it’s only a matter of time before we all die as a result. Naturally, everyone takes the news a little differently. Widower Patrick Wheeler (Don McKellar) is looking forward to committing suicide as the song “Guantanamera” plays, but not before he has a final dinner with his parents and chats with his friend Craig (Callum Keith Rennie) who spends his final days ticking off all of his fantasies from a list. Meanwile, Randy Bachman leads a group of amateur guitar players in “Takin’ Care of Business“.

Contrast this with Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. It’s less of an ensemble piece, focusing instead on the relationship between Steve Carell’s character, Dodge Petersen, and Penny, played by Keira Knightley. Dodge’s wife leaves him upon hearing the news that the Space Shuttle Deliverance has blown up in an attempt to save the world from an in-bound asteroid, and he finds himself on a roadtrip of sorts with Knightley’s Penny. While both films grapple with bigger issues each in their own way, Seeking a Friend concentrates more on overt comedy. Attempts to embrace any larger, philosophical and existential themes (such as William Petersen’s scene) are more subtle and are frequently used as plot devices and played for laughs.

Last Night is an independent, Canadian film (dare we say “art film”?) funded in part by a Canadian Arts Council grant, and written by Don McKellar in response to a friend’s challenge to write the best “millennial” movie. It was produced in 1998.

Seeking a Friend was written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, and was produced in the US in 2012.

Sitting as we are between the national holidays of two North American nations, with Canada Day now behind us and Independence Day coming up, I propose we sit down and enjoy a double bill that examines the Canadian and USAmerican takes on the end of the world. You may need to work a little harder to gain access to Last Night, but I have faith in your ability to be resourceful.