“Don’t Think Twice” (2016)
Film is reviewed from the 2016 SXSW Film Festival screening.
At a small club in New York City, an improv troupe called The Commune performs nightly. The troupe is made up of 6 members, all who have ambitions to either write or perform for the SNL-like TV show called Weekend Live. The troupe has been together for years, and most were recruited from an improv class taught by Mike (Mike Birbiglia), who came within “inches” of making the Weekend Live cast years ago. The rest of The Commune is made up of Jack (Keegan Michael-Key), his girlfriend Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Allison (Kate Micucci), Bill (Chris Gethard) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher). They don’t get paid much from the show, so most of the group have second jobs or are unemployment.
The troupe is at a crossroads, as the club they perform at is being sold and becoming an “Urban Outfitters.” This creates a bit of panic within the group, as they start thinking about their futures. As luck would have it, a talent scout for Weekend Live shows up for one of their performances. When Jack and Sam are picked out of the group to audition for the show, this causes quite a bit of friction from the rest of the troupe (though they try not to show it). What will happen if Sam and Jack are picked for the TV show? Will The Commune survive?
I loved writer/director Mike Birbiglia’s first picture “Sleep Walk With Me,” which was about the trials and tribulations of being a stand-up comic on the road. I am happy to say that Birbiglia has done it again with “Don’t Think Twice,” as this movie is as humorous and inventive as his first film. Being a fan of improv and having done some during a stint in a children’s theatre program, I respect how hard it is to be consistently funny while making up things ‘on the fly.” The film gives you great insight into just how hard it is to make it as a comedic performer/writer. This is illustrated by Mike’s living conditions, as his room is basically a bunk bed in a closet. The life of a comedian in the big city is full of pain, rejection and self-doubts, all of which are part of this film. This isn’t a film that romanticizes coming to the big city and making it big. Instead, it shows just how hard and how many sacrifices that someone has to make to just survive. It’s also a film about friendship and competition, as your friend may be the one person that gets the job you covet, fulfilling their dreams as it crushes yours.
The joy of this film is the improv scenes (which by the way; some were scripted, and others were improvised), which will have you on the floor laughing. Even some of the scenes away from the club are fun to watch as the group make fun of each other constantly, though, sometimes the kidding can go too far and touch a nerve or two. The cast is exceptional and the chemistry, when they are doing improv, is brilliant and effortless. Birbiglia plays the insecure Mike with conviction. Keegan Michael-Key is a blast to watch as the group’s star on the rise and his interactions with Gillian Jacobs make it seem like they have been a couple for years. There is a scene near the end of the film between the two that just might bring a tear to your eyes. Kate Micucci is perfect as the talented writer who is scared to finish any project that she starts. Chris Gerhard plays the sad sack Bill with great comic timing and Tami Sagher, shows her strong improv background, standing out when the group performs.
This is a heartfelt, funny film that deals with all the pain, sacrifice and lows that comedians face in their everyday life just so that they can get those few minutes in the spotlight. “Don’t Think Twice” is a film that shows us that as painful as those struggles are, if you can make someone laugh while up on stage; it’s all worth it. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
“Don’t Think Twice” comes out later this year.