How It Ends Review: A Great Hangout Dramedy for Those Who Want A Laugh Post-Pandemic

How It Ends Review: A Great Hangout Dramedy for Those Who Want A Laugh Post-Pandemic

Read Time:5 Minutes, 25 Seconds

There have been a number of comedies that have come out during quarantine. There’s Bill & Ted Face the Music, Barb & Star Go to Vista del Mar (which I haven’t seen, but it’s on Hulu now!), Together Together, The Mitchells vs. the Machines, but I don’t think any of those films I just mentioned were filmed during the pandemic, much less planned to release during the pandemic.

How It Ends, however, filmed in Los Angeles during the pandemic, is very much a film meant to be released amid the pandemic. There are elements that can be applied to processing grief through laughter during the pandemic, but those aren’t the best bits. Instead, the best bits are further within.

Why don’t I give myself the present of self-medication?

Zoe Lister-Jones as Liza

The trailer for How It Ends

A real highlight is the cast, which, yes, is very much treated like “Hey, look it’s _!” but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Each actor is having fun, and I commend it. Sometimes, those are the best kinds of movies. Deserving of special mention is Cailee Spaney. She perfectly emulates Zoe Lister-Jones’ mannerisms but is given enough of an identity within the film itself that isn’t just “Young Liza.” Some other highlights in the cast are Bradley Whitford, who plays Liza’s dad, and Colin Hanks, who plays Charlie. The two are just always a delight to see, and I enjoyed both of their performances, with Whitford just unleashing all his manic energy and Hanks playing a total douche. There’s also a mini Always Sunny in Philadelphia reunion with Charlie Day, who plays Lonny, and Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who plays Krista. The only thing that would have been more perfect would be if the two met up with Glenn Howerton, who plays John.

Come on, fuck it!

Cailee Spaney as Young Liza

The plot is relatively simple: Liza must journey the streets of Los Angeles with a metaphysical representation of her younger self on the final day before a meteor hits the Earth, making amends with those she’s hurt, or she’s been hurt by on the way to an end of the world party thrown by her friend Mandy (played by Whitney Cummings). Most of the emotional catharsis Liza receives works, with the exception of the emotional release Liza has towards the end of the film. It feels like it should be this big moment, but the scene feels more like a whimper. By the time the final catharsis happens, we’ve already had so much catharsis that the viewer becomes numb to it, and I expect most prospective viewers to shrug at the moment.

I love that for you!

Zoe Lister-Jones as Liza & Cailee Spaney as Young Liza

The dual direction by husband-wife team Daryl Wein & Zoe Lister-Jones is felt. It feels like two different films, at points. One half wants the film to be about emotional catharsis, while the other half wants this to be about letting yourself have fun in life, no matter how old you are. I’m sure this worked in the script, but I’m not sure the direction works on screen. There are moments like the “How Much I Loved You” singing session with Jet (Sharon Van Etten), where the film halts to a standstill to have a super chill moment for the viewer to stop and breathe, but it goes to war with itself at almost every turn. The film relies on tropes to tell the story too often for my liking. There are great moments, though, like the comedy standup routine from Stand Up (Ayo Edebiri) and the segment with Ala (Olivia Wilde) for walking the line between pretentious LA jokes and obnoxious.

Chalamet. In the afterlife.

Olivia Wilde as Ala

How It Ends chooses a distinct visual language that’s been seen before with overexposed and handheld cinematography. I don’t particularly appreciate how it looks, but it’s not distracting enough to detract from my enjoyment of the film too much. Beyond that, the film was shot in Los Angeles during the pandemic, and that is felt. The streets are a little too empty for the end of the world. Additionally, there are visual jokes like a “You are enough” yield sign that are great, even if they sometimes fall a little flat.

It’s nice to be seen, you know?

Cailee Spaney as Young Liza

Stop using that word. It feels inappropriate. But yeah, we’re gonna fuck.

Zoe Lister-Jones as Liza

As for the songs, the soundtrack consists of Twist, SICKOTOY, Inna, Tag, Chris St. Hilaire, The Lemon Twigs, and more. Like a typical dramedy, their presence enhances the viewer’s enjoyment and places them more in the film, like a hilarious needle drop with “Half Forgotten Daydreams” by John Cameron. However, as I mentioned with the Jet segment earlier, sometimes this can detract from the experience, halting the film in its tracks just for a quick song or two.

So, obviously, for a film about a journey to a party, the costume design is superb. The costumes are all different and unique from one another, especially as we get closer to the finale. Additionally, as we explore the more emotional elements of the film, I found myself theorizing about how the costumes represented the character’s inner emotions. That’s more than I usually think about costume design, so props to the costume design team on this film!

I can never be the kid.

Zoe Lister-Jones as Liza

How It Ends knows that it’s meant to be a film made for people to experience grief and trying to enjoy life while they can. While I can certainly appreciate the effort by Wein and Lister-Jones, This is one of those comedies you put on every once in a while when you need a comedy to watch, and no one can agree on what to watch. Not that that’s a bad thing. Some of my favorite films are those kinds of movies. However, I wish Wein & Lister-Jones had a bit more creative restraint so that the film could breathe without needing to halt the story for a quick signing session.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

How It Ends is available rent on the digital movie platform of your choice and in select theaters.

Until next time!

Thanks to Thomas Stoneham-Judge from Movies For ReelShane Conto, Joseph Davis, David Walters, and Ambula Bula for supporting Austin B Media on Patreon!

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Bo Burnham's latest special is a dazzling and heartbreaking self-portrait of a comedian at war with his inner demons. If you'd like, you can read the review at the website. Bo Burnham: Inside is now available to stream on Netflix. Thanks to Thomas Stoneham-Judge from Movies For Reel, Shane Conto, Joseph Davis, David Walters, and Ambula Bula for supporting Austin B Media on Patreon! Subscribe to Austin B Updates! Subscribe to the Podcast! Follow me on my social media accounts! Facebook & Instagram TikTok Twitch Twitter YouTube — This episode is sponsored by · Anchor: The easiest way to make a podcast. https://anchor.fm/app — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/austin-b-media/message
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