The improv comedy world is filled with community and “yes-and.” It is about being of one mind. What happens, then, when that camaraderie is put in jeopardy by success, or a lack thereof?
Mike Birbiglia’s sophomore feature is an industry ensemble piece that explores the nuances of an entertainment medium that is often presented at face value. It is a scene meant to incite laughter and joy, and that is usually how it is viewed: a scene rife with juvenile happiness. But it also has the potential for broken dreams, emptiness, and isolation.
Birbiglia captures all of these facets with scrutiny and a pointed passion. He makes the Saturday Night Live knockoff “Weekend Live” appear as this looming monster, but it is the cast of characters in the film that provide the true antagonism, an antagonism that is real to life.
The entire cast of Don’t Think Twice has a groupmind. They are moving cogs in a slowly disassembling machine. There is no standout performance, because the troupe is balanced by the strengths and weaknesses of each actor. In this way, it truly feels like an improv team on screen. Keegan-Michael Key and Gillian Jacobs may be the most recognizable faces to a mainstream audience, but their presence does not take away from the powerful performances of Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher.
Don’t Think Twice is as much about aging as it is about comedy. It is as much about finding existential meaning as it is about getting a high profile job. It is a movie about six people’s variably situated tipping points. Tipping points that, once reached, cause characters to collide and careen against one another. Don’t Think Twice is a film oozing with passion. Birbiglia’s peek behind the curtain into the improv scene may not often be funny, but it is real. Achingly so.
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—Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)