My Favorite Movies – Don’t Think Twice (2016)

20 May

By Tanner Smith

I talked about Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me recently and also mentioned that I didn’t even know about it until I saw his other film “Don’t Think Twice.” But I wouldn’t have known about “Don’t Think Twice” if I hadn’t worked at a movie store three years ago–I was alphabetizing the Blu-Rays, I got to the Ds, I found something called “Don’t Think Twice” featuring all these talented funny people, and the cover included a highly positive review blurb from one of my favorite film critics (Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune). I was like, “What is this??”

When I got home from work, I found the film on Netflix. So I check it out, and…yeah, it’s really freaking good!

Since then, “Don’t Think Twice” is no longer on Netflix and I still don’t own it, so it’s one of the DVDs I often check out from the library pretty much each visit.

“Don’t Think Twice,” written and directed by Mike Birbiglia (who also co-stars in the film), is about a New York improv troupe called The Commune. They’re a group of friends who each have normal, mundane lives and boring jobs, but when they perform together, that’s when they all feel alive. Right away, I’m sure a lot of my struggling-artist friends can relate (because I certainly can!!).

I want to use this opportunity to appreciate the awesome cast in this movie. Mike Birbiglia plays Miles, who founded the troupe and also teaches improv while he’d rather gain a spot as a regular on the SNL-type variety TV show “Weekend Live.” (It’s pretty much the same as “SNL,” but you know–copyright and stuff.) Keegan-Michael Key plays Jack, who is undoubtedly the most talented of the troupe (but often shows off when he feels the mood dying). Gillian Jacobs plays Sam, the troupe’s emcee and Jack’s girlfriend. Kate Micucci is Allison, who also uses her talent and ideas for other ventures, such as a graphic novel in the works. Tami Sagher is Lindsay, who lives off her wealthy parents. And last but not least, Chris Gethard is Bill, who just doesn’t feel it with the improv as much as he used to.

Those are the briefest character descriptions I could come up with for this post, but trust me when I say all six of these people are well-defined, three-dimensional characters, and they’re all acted wonderfully.

The story for “Don’t Think Twice” kicks in as Jack showboats during a Commune performance in which a Weekend Live staff member is in the audience. He and Sam are invited to audition for the show, which angers the rest of the group (though they do their best to voice their support because that’s what friends do…hard as it may be). Sam blows off her audition because she feels more comfortable doing smaller improv-type stuff like The Commune rather than in the big leagues with Weekend Live…..Jack, however, earns a spot on the show.

This film is not only funny in the ways it deals with realistic issues that improv performers face but it can also be brutally honest, such as when one admits he doesn’t feel the joy in performing as he used to, another wants to find other ways to break into the field, and the most heartbreaking of all, when your friends want you to pitch their ideas to your superiors when your superiors couldn’t care any less about YOU.

In the process, those who aren’t entirely affiliated with improv also learn more about the art, such as how it’s always important to agree with the setup because “it’s all about the group.”

And once again, I have to point out my stance on comedy-dramas (“dramedies”), which is: if there’s anything more important than a comedy that makes you laugh, it’s a comedy that makes you feel. I can laugh at a lot of the antics The Commune come up with on stage, and I can also laugh at a couple of the situations that follow off stage–but more importantly, because of that, I can feel something when, say, Bill faces a family crisis and/or Sam has self-esteem issues.

I don’t know how I missed “Don’t Think Twice” when it was initially released, but I’m glad I found it when I did. Three years later, it’s still a wonderful, funny, moving film…I’ll probably watch it again today, because why not?

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