Sunday, August 22, 2021

How It Ends: Movie Review

Random funniness, very superficial.

How It Ends opens with Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) woken up by the metaphysical presence of her younger self (Cailee Spaeny). Young Liza is demanding answers, "Aren’t we going to do something? How did our life get to this, dying alone?" It’s the end of the world as an asteroid is going to hit at 2 am. Liza just wants to lay in bed, eat her pancakes and do nothing. Young Liza thinks it’s time for a soul-searching reckoning.   2021

Directed by: Zoe Lister-Jones, Daryl Wein

Screenplay by: Daryl Wein, Zoe Lister-Jones

Starring: Zoe Lister-Jones, Cailee Spaeny

That conflict between Liza and young Liza leads to the fundamental split in the movie. On one hand it wants to be a light-hearted comedy about nothing, on the other hand, a philosophical discussion on the meaning of life and what matters most in the end. It’s too light and minimal to be all that deep. It’s a superficial, somewhat funny comedy about life on Earth.

The entire movie is Liza and younger Liza wondering the deserted streets of LA, eventually hoping to end up at a party. It’s a bright sunny day despite the impending arrival of the asteroid, there’s parked cars but very few people. If you have taken a look at the cast list, you’ll see an almost non-ending list of famous actors – they each appear for a one-minute scene as Liza confronts her past.

The first random appearance is Fred Armisen as a guy who bought all of the remaining weed. He was not surprised by the appearance of young Liza because he also had a metaphysical representation of his younger self, but he died by falling off a cliff. There are a decent number of jokes like that scattered throughout the movie. Scattered is part of the problem; it’s a very short movie, only 84 minutes, and yet moves very slowly with no rhythm established.

My favourite random celebrity appearance is Bobby Lee as Liza’s neighbour, just chilling in a lawn chair at the end of the driveway. He watched somebody steal Liza’s car, and Liza asks him why he didn’t do anything, “well, I thought about it, but it’s the end of the world, so I just like ehh, fuck it.”

Young Liza’s not nearly so chill. She wants to know why Liza is 30-something and still single, and why can’t she fix her relationship with her parents. Logan Marshall-Green as Nate, the boy who got away, is very enjoyable, with the film playing up his looks. But in very short scenes as Liza attempts to dissect her past failings with her father (Bradley Whitford), mother (Helen Hunt), best friend (Olivia Wilde) and ex-boyfriend/serial-cheater (Lamorne Morris), the comedy mostly falls flat. A few jokes, but too few laughs for how meaningless it ultimately is.

Cailee Spaeny as young Liza is a revelation. The least well-known of the entire cast, but she’s the one who holds focus for the entire time. She’s very funny when she’s exasperated by Liza’s lack of urgency in her final day, and funnier when she’s mimicking Lister-Jones. And she can sing (because of course there’s a random musical moment for no reason).

There’s a scene near the end where Colin Hanks describes Liza’s journey with young Liza as an “existential scavenger hunt for your soul”. How It Ends isn’t deep or meaningful enough to get away with that. There are a lot of random jokes by a lot of famous actors who are clearly having fun, but it’s a light-weight comedy let down by it’s meaning of life soul-searching.