For a comedy about going to a wild end-of-the-world party, this is a surprisingly calm, measured, and amusing look at coming to terms with yourself. You've likely heard this question before: If you knew then what you know now, what would you tell your younger self? Here, that idea is turned upside down: What would your younger self say to you if they knew what you'd become? As Liza tries to revisit all of the relationships that have gone wrong in her life and get closure, she tries to ignore her own mistreatment of herself. It's kind of meta but kind of not, kind of a metaphor but actually overt. So, what it really is, then, is clever.
Another clever move by Lister-Jones and co-writer/director/producer Daryl Wein was to use the COVID-19 pandemic to their advantage, doing some indie filmmaking on the fly. You have to imagine that filling a cast with recognizable faces and names was a little easier than normal during quarantine -- when your actor friends are home and bored seems like a good time to ask whether you can walk over with a camera and have them do a scene. And that's what How It Ends delivers: One scene each with talented performers like Helen Hunt, Bradley Whitford, Finn Wolfhard, Fred Armisen, etc., most of whom seem to have been given license to improvise. The scene between Liza and her best friend from high school (Olivia Wilde) is especially phenomenal (and seems likely to be referenced by acting teachers from here on out). Whether or not this little bighearted comedy makes a splash, it's a time capsule: Empty streets lined with dust-gathering parked cars is exactly what Los Angeles looked like in the early months of lockdown. Lister-Jones and Wein use this to set a scene where the world is in shock, not panicking, rioting, and looting, but accepting their doom and going out with dignity ... albeit also potentially high or drunk. The film reminds us that, when it all comes down to it, the best friend we have is ourselves, so we should treat ourselves with the love we deserve.