REVIEW: Summer Flings in ‘How To Screw It All Up’

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How To Screw It All Up - But Why Tho

How To Screw It All Up (Cómo Mandarlo Todo a la Mierda), a Spanish-language HBO Max Original created by Pablo Sanhermelando Blanes, is another entry season’s teen summer shows. This show, with a short format of 20-minute or fewer episodes, stars Naira Lleó as the main character Alba who has an abusive home life with her older brother. When a senior class trip to Italy is suddenly canceled, she finds that a group of her classmates who she doesn’t particularly know are planning to go on their own trip anyway without their parents’ knowing. Alba makes sure that she is part of that trip too.

The show is part teen road trip movie and part aimless drama in different balances depending on the moment. On the one hand, it’s a classic affair with a group of friends getting into trouble over and over as they try to live out their rebellious teenage days. They hijack a van, run into money issues, their phones die, and they party on the beach. It’s all good fun. But at the same time, Alba has a very troubling backstory that keeps bubbling its way to the surface. And whenever that tension arises, the level of drama feels like it starts to outmatch the light and breezy nature of the group’s aimless road trip.

This dissonance is always most stark at the end of an episode when the punk-inspired style of the end credits roll in on top of a scenario that just feels far grimmer than the show’s overall tone. It doesn’t feel intentional, either. It’s like the drama with Alba is meant to be more lighthearted than it comes across for me. It doesn’t detract from the lighter parts of the show by any means, but it also means that the light parts don’t help give complete conviction to the level of drama that the show seems to possess.

Stylistically though, despite the bit of dissonance, I do enjoy the punk aesthetic, the matching music, and even the odd aspect ratio. Every time I began a new episode and the nearly square ratio began, I was briefly jarred. There’s a bit of a filter on the show as well where, with all aspects combined, even some of the costuming and hairstyles, it looks like it’s of the 90s. I know, obviously, the 90s are in right now; we’re hitting that 30-year nostalgia frame. But given that the show does take place in a modern time, it’s not especially clear why it looks like I’m watching a VHS tape. It’s a look I enjoy, to be sure. It gives some character to a show that is otherwise not very character heavy. It’s just confounding.

And really, How To Screw It All Up is far from a character-driven affair. Some characters barely even have personalities, let alone a reason to remember their names. They’re all genial and quite fine to watch. It’s just not possible with such a short runtime to gain much affinity for any of them individually as opposed to just the group as a whole. Alba and pack-leader Irene (Malva Vela) are really the only two we spend much time getting to know.

How To Screw It All Up never really seems to find its lane, but nonetheless, it offers enough summer teen fun and gripping family drama to warrant the short watch. It’s visually interesting, even if I can’t understand why it uses the visual style it does, and its group has a fun dynamic, even if its individual members are largely forgettable.

How To Screw It All Up is streaming now on HBO Max.


How To Screw It All Up
  • 7/10
    Rating - 7/10
7/10

TL;DR

How To Screw It All Up never really seems to find its lane, but nonetheless, it offers enough summer teen fun and gripping family drama to warrant the short watch. It’s visually interesting, even if I can’t understand why it uses the visual style it does, and its group has a fun dynamic, even if its individual members are largely forgettable.

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