Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't Think Twice (Movie Review)

Don't Overlook Don't Think Twice

Don't Think Twice follows an improvisational troupe called The Commune in New York. The group is made up of Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Miles (Mike Birbiglia), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher) and follows their struggle to make it on Weekend Live, which is basically the movie's version of Saturday Night Live. The film begins with three rules for improvisation or improv: first is say yes and just go with any suggestion, second is that it's not about you it's about the group and lastly don't think (which is where the movie gets its title from). The movie follows these rules not just in their comedy, but in their lives.

The brilliance of this movie comes with the comedically experienced cast who are much like the characters they are playing. With the exception of Key (Key & Peele), Jacobs (Community) and Birbiglia (who wrote and directed the film), the rest of the cast are faces I recognize in other work but haven't seen in mainstream movies and Birbiglia uses that to his advantage. 

For most comedies the problem I have is that the characters aren't believable but the script creates depth for each character–some more than others–but just like the second rule it's about the group as a whole. The comedy is the center of their lives and it is so interesting that no matter how serious a situation is they never fail to inject their comedy into it because it is so naturally free flowing. Laying in bed Jack and Samantha practice their impressions while kissing, and when someone walks in late they tease them by impersonating their voices and body language. It's harmless fun that is like practice for their shows. When it's finally showtime their shows open with a suggestion from the audience asking them "has anyone had a hard day?" and building off of it. It's fitting that that particular question is their prompt because they build off of their own struggles as well. 

What I liked is how it real it felt, like I was watching a documentary about how improv groups really work. The film follows them to their day jobs as they struggle to find an identity outside of their group. Jack and Samantha have a complicated relationship that interferes with their work and love life and threatens the balance of the two. Miles (Birbiglia) teaches an improv group and tells the same story to sleep with his much younger students that he was "inches" from being on Weekend Live. 

When one of the members gets an opportunity to actually be on Weekend Live, the group stops being a unit and act out of their own selfishness and pride instead of being happy for them. Instead of a congratulations from the group, they want him to hook them up with jobs at Weekend Live.

I was reminded of Funny People (2009) during this movie and how that film failed to maintain that hopeful struggle with realism, this one hits it right on the head and it's the movie's main strength. The movie has a fair amount of laughs although there's an equal amount of drama, which is reflective of that realism. My favorite moments were the characters just rehearsing their impressions or sketches by themselves because it really does feel like they are making it up on the spot.

If I had any complaints about the film it was that, other a couple of short scenes, you don't see enough of the life of success that the tension is based on and the third act doesn't wrap as tightly as it could have (even with a surprise cameo) but the ride up to the end was a funny and heartfelt time. This is clearly a small film and it needed to be with the subject matter being so small scale but it makes up for it with big characters and moments. Birbiglia accomplishes a rare feat in taking his comedyand making an engaging movie out of it. His character has a lot of insecurity and depth that probably resembles his own experiences more than the audience will ever know.

Don't Think Twice is the quirky and bittersweet movie that is rare in today's over-budgeted comedy landscape and one of the best comedies of 2016. 

My Rating: 

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