Zoe Lister-Jones and Cailee Spaeny carry this charming COVID-era apocalyptic comedy to great heights.
By Sean Blanford
A huge reason why I love covering film festivals is finding a movie that might not be on the top of everyone’s radar that may have an actor or actress you love or an interesting premise and seeing it gain a following and an audience and eventually get distribution. That film in 2021 is the existential apocalyptic comedy How It Ends, co-directed, co-produced, and co-written by the husband/wife duo of Zoe Lister-Jones (who is also our lead) and Daryl Wein (who is also a co-director of photography and co-editor).
It’s the last day of Earth’s existence before a giant asteroid sends everyone into the great beyond, and all Liza (Jones) wants to do is get high, eat until she pukes and dies. This sounds like fun for her and her materialized younger self (Cailee Spaeny), but a chance meeting from the one that away (Logan Marshall-Green) changes their priorities. Instead of wasting the day away, they make a list of people they want to get a sense of closure from before the big Armageddon extravaganza hosted by Mandy (Whitney Cummings). This includes Liza’s mom and dad (Helen Hunt and Bradley Whitford), her one-time best friend (Olivia Wilde), and an ex-lover that treated her wrong (Lamorne Morris). Along the way, the Liza tandem meets random people spending their last day’s the way they want to, some being other younger selves, street comedians, musicians, and so much more.
Made during the COVID lockdown of 2020 and all shot in the streets of Los Angeles, this is the kind of inspired filmmaking that you do when you want to get a bunch of your friends together and make a movie, which is exactly what Jones and Wein accomplished. It may not date well in the sense that several years from now, we may forget that social distancing was a thing and why the majority of the actors were standing six feet apart from each other, but this is a small digression in an otherwise fantastic film thanks largely to the chemistry between Jones and Spaeny. The two actors play off each other so well that when the harder moments of the film come to space out the comedic bits, you genuinely get the feels. All of the comedic moments and cameo appearances work and don’t feel out of place, with a dialogue between Jones and Wilde that is both laugh-out-loud funny and touching at the same time.
This is a review that I should have written six months ago when I screened it at Sundance and again when I saw it two months ago at South by Southwest. It’s a film I went from liking to loving it to one that I wanted to share with people before it is even released (by which I mean telling people to get tickets for the Tribeca virtual stream and not be a pirate). Mark July 20th on your calendars, and make sure to catch How It Ends.
GRADE: 4.25/5 (A-)