It certainly wasn’t because of the material they were working with. While I like the laid-back attitude the filmmakers apply to the theoretically devastating situation, it quickly becomes apparent that attitude is the only thing the film really has to offer to viewers. Although there are a few amusing moments here and there, the comedic situations are too droll for their own good and too often seem to waste potentially interesting ideas. (The notion of people being accompanied by their younger selves is promising but with one single exception—which proves to be the funnest scene in the film—nothing is done with it.) Likewise, the more serious-minded moments fail to stick because they are too thinly drawn to provide either Liza or those of us in the audience with the kind of cathartic emotional payoff that they are trying to achieve. And the film’s entire structure—a revue-like format where a new famous friend pops up to riff for a few minutes—is so rigid, despite its otherwise chill nature, that it soon grows monotonous. Even at a relatively brief 82 minutes, many viewers may find themselves checking their watches and wondering what could possibly be keeping that meteor.
I first saw “How It Ends” at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival and found it to be a tedious exercise in half-baked whimsy that just didn’t work for me. Before writing this review, I decided to watch it again, to experience it without being inundated with other festival screenings, only to find my feelings unchanged. Of course, I’m fully aware that humor is highly subjective and that what struck me as being kind of a drag might come across as both hilarious and insightful to others. Therefore, while I cannot recommend the film, I would say that if the conceit sounds interesting/amusing to you, you might get more out of it than I did.
For everyone else, perhaps I could recommend a couple of other movies that have employed a similr concept in a more effective manner. For example, Richard Lester’s cult favorite “The Bed Sitting Room” (1969) brought together some of Britain’s greatest comedic talents (including Dudley Moore, Peter Cook, Spike Milligan and Marty Feldman) to show a handful of survivors of nuclear apocalypse waiting out the eventual end of everything, amidst such bizarre sights as the BBC going from house to house to deliver the news to Ralph Richardson mutating into the titular creation. “This Is the End” (2013) was a noisy and often gross comedy about a group of celebrity pals facing the apocalypse that nevertheless managed to present moments of actual insight amidst the crudity. Perhaps most applicable is Don McKellar’s “Last Night” (1998), a lovely and observant Canadian film about a group of people (including Sandra Oh, Sarah Polley and Genevieve Bujold) facing the last six hours of humanity in ways both funny and poignant. (David Cronenberg even turns up as a gas company employee charged with informing customers that their service will continue right up to the end of everything.) All of these film do a much better job of mining the end of everything for both comedy and drama than “How It Ends” ever manages to accomplish.
Now playing in select theaters and virtual cinemas.