Wein and Lister-Jones keep the tone on an edge between bouncy and weird, making it easier for the audience to better accept anything that can—and will—happen. And going along with the less-pastel Wes Anderson-esque framing and palette, the quirky, expressive musical score by Ryan Miller is appropriately adaptable as well.
While the silliness almost never ceases, the idea of the end of theEarth is treated with frank austerity. Characters lament their pasts, verbalize their regrets, and even talk seriously about the afterlife. Just because life as they know it is about to end doesn’t mean that they can’t face the looming news with composure. Despite the surrealistic approach that the writer-director team sticks with, there’s still some truth and realism to how the people in their world are handling themselves. Perhaps more idealistic because of the anarchist outliers that have been scrubbed for the purpose of this iteration, those who remain live out their final hours exactly how people in this self-absorbed L s Angeles bubble would—which may very well be the truest satire of it all.
Outside of the insouciant ad-lib fest and comical what-ifs, there’s still an intrinsic emotional pathos that’s unavoidable with a story like this, showing how people are still tethered to these habitual inhibitions and insecurities, even though they no longer serve a purpose considering their future on Earth won’t exist in a few hours. Yet the movie rejects the trite, artificial, feel-good facade for more of an accepting and surprisingly hopeful attitude. Never undermining any of the emotion, How It Ends always maintains its poignancy to at least some degree, with both ListonJones and Spaeny able to manage any tonal shifts that come their way. Liza’s estranged mother is played by Helen Hunt, who steals the film on a dramatic level as the only one who never kowtows to the flippancy.
More sketch comedy than it is movie, How It Ends still justifies its randomness with its premise and churns out inventive and ballsy comedic ideas, even if hey don’t always work. In one of the first notable results of the pentup creativity caused by a global pandemic, the film is commedia dell’arte in the purest form, a true expression of deliberated concepts unclouded by distraction. And as one character puts it so well, “I think everyone’s just operating on a higher frequency or something.”