Here are my reviews for How It Ends and On the Count of Three which had their premieres at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
HOW IT ENDS
How It Ends is one of the more unique end of the world movies I have ever seen. It’s a quirky, weird, often hilarious odyssey through Los Angeles filled with celebrity cameos and a sweet story.
On the last day on Earth, Liza (Zoe Lister-Jones) goes on a journey through LA with the metaphysical version of her younger self (Cailee Spaeny) to make it to her last party before the world ends. On her journey, she continuously runs into an eclectic cast of characters, including Nate (Logan Marshall Green), a man she’s been in love with for awhile, yet never told.
Liza meets dozens of people on her journey to the party, most of which are played by great comedic actors. People like Bradley Whitford, Paul Scheer, Charlie Day, Nick Kroll, Whitney Cummings, and a slew of others lend their talents to the film, each having their own bit. Not all of the bits work, but some of them are truly great, like Liza’s fast-talking, hilarious confrontation with an old friend, played by Olivia Wilde. Though not all the bits fully work, Liza’s journey is really a personal one about loving every part of yourself and trying to stay happy in the bad times, a fitting message for living in isolation and distancing from the ones you love during the pandemic.
The film was shot during the COVID-19 pandemic and it makes for a very interesting watch. Actors standing six feet apart, the abandoned streets Liza roams, and a darkness lingering over the humor. Though funny with some great performances, How It Ends will go down as a time capsule movie as what it was like to make movies during a global pandemic. It will be interesting to watch this movie whenever this pandemic is over to remember a time when the world was in shambles and that writer/director duo of Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein managed to find humor in it all.
ON THE COUNT OF THREE
On the Count of Three was one of my most anticipated movies at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and it lived up to all of my expectations. Director/star Jerrod Carmichael’s directorial debut is a layered, electrifying film featuring two dynamite performances from Carmichael and Christopher Abbott.
The film opens up with Val (Carmichael) and Kevin (Abbott) pointing guns at each other’s faces, counting down until they blow the trigger. We then go back at how the day all began and how the two best friends got to this place. Val’s life isn’t what he has expected and he wants it to end. Kevin is in a mental institution and tried to take his life a few days prior. Val breaks Kevin out the institution and the two make a suicide pact and decide to live out their final day doing whatever they want, regardless of the legality of it all.
Carmichael and Abbott are excellent as Val and Kevin. Carmichael plays Val with a slow burning sadness. It isn’t exactly clear why he wants to kill himself and slowly reveals it throughout the movie and begins to question his decision. Abbott is a ticking time bomb and gives his best performance since his breakout in 2015’s James White. Kevin puts it in his head that this is his final day on Earth and makes sure to settle any scores that he needs to in order to make his final day count. The chemistry between Carmichael and Abbott is great and you really buy that they are friends who have bonded through trauma.
Written by Ari Katcher and Ryan Welch, On the Count of Three looks at a lot of topics and Carmichael tries to juggle them all. Some of them get lost in the shuffle of it all, but a lot of it lands in a powerful manner. The film takes shots at gun control, mental health, growing up with trauma, and finding your purpose to live, all while being a powerful dramedy about friendship. There’s a lot to unpack with this one.
Led by a pair of brilliant performances and powerful messages, On the Count of Three is a stellar debut for Jerrod Carmichael and establishes a new voice behind the camera.
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