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Sundance Hit ‘How It Ends’ Brings The Apocalypse Home (Review)

When the end credits began to roll on its brisk 82-minute running time, I said to my partner how much I enjoyed “How It Ends” and that it reminded me of the glory days of American independent film in the 90s. He laughed and noted that the whole time he was thinking about Richard Linklater’s 1990 classic, “Slacker.”

There is a shared cinematic universe between the two – both features offer a meandering “day in the life” scenario giving the viewer a series of characters who float in and out of the film and give us a handful of perfect moments.

While “Slacker” showed us a random day in late 1980s Austin, Texas, this literal doomsday comedy has us on the streets of Los Angeles in the 24 hours before a giant meteor makes contact with Earth and kills us all.

Zoe Lister-Jones and her husband Daryl Wein wrote and directed this film, shooting it in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdown. Lister-Jones stars as Liza, truly a bit of a slacker in her own right, who starts off the day with a giant stack of pancakes while discussing the plan for the day with her metaphysical younger self (Cailee Spaeny).

All Liza really wants to do is get high and maybe make amends with a few friends, family members, and former lovers. There is some pressure to attend a friend’s end of the world party, but Liza’s plans lean towards eating her favorite foods until she throws up. A day without real responsibility or consequences sounds pretty good right about now.

After he car is stolen from in front of her house, Liza and her teenage counterpart have to set out on foot to traipse the streets of L.A. looking for closure before it gets too late.

Along the way, we encounter a wide variety of comedians and favorite actors like Fred Armisen, Nick Kroll, Olivia Wilde, Bradley Whitford, and Helen Hunt who help push the film along from point A to point B. We even get a lovely street performance from indie chanteuse Sharon Van Etten. Sure, nothing much really happens along the way, but it’s clever, fun, and lighthearted.

There is something about Lister-Jones’ wavelength that I am happily on. Her 2017 film “Band Aid” was one of my favorite films of that year and I found myself cackling through the entirety of “How It Ends” and enjoying it thoroughly. This film isn’t here to solve the problems of the world. Hell, our main character is barely able to decide how she wants to spend her last day on the planet. And that’s part of the fun. Enjoy the ride (or walk, as it were) before it’s too late.

“How It Ends” is playing now in select theaters and is also available for VOD rental from all digital and cable providers.