Hot Take: This drama/comedy has sharper teeth than it does belly laughs. It’s funny but not hysterical but it’s also unexpectedly moving.
Very often, it’s hard to find honesty in a film. Don’t Think Twice isn’t one of those films. The 2016 drama/comedy about a NYC improv troupe who longs to find jobs on Weekend Live (the movie’s version of Saturday Night Light) is not the riotous laugh fest you’d expect a film about an improv comedy troupe to be. Instead, it’s chock full of some of the more difficult moments in life and the stark reality all of the members of the comedy troupe face as they all realize there’s a chance they may never accomplish what they thought they would.
When the producers of Weekend Live come to see The Commune — the name of the comedy troupe — the audience starts to see the cracks in the armor of the tight-knit group. Led by Miles (Mike Birbiglia who also wrote and directed the film), the group warns Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) to not hijack the show and attempt to steal the spotlight. Jack does so with his President Obama impression and the group half-heartedly chastises him after the show. His showboating paid off as him and his girlfriend Sam (Gillian Jacobs) both receive an invitation for an audition with Weekend Live. As the group unravels due to the closing of the theater which houses their performances, Jack earns the gig as a Weekend Live regular and everything changes for the group. Jack prepares to move on while the rest of the group realizes their hard work and determination might not be enough to be more than the small comedy troupe they are.
In addition to jealousy and the reality of their theater closing, one of the troupe, Bill (Chris Gethard), has to deal with his father’s near fatal motorcycle accident which leaves his dad incapacitated and unable to form long sentences. This is the one thing the group can still rally around as they support Bill through his tough time but not without some rather inappropriate but hilarious joking about Bill’s injured dad. It’s in those light-hearted moments floated around the film’s heaviest scenes when Don’t Think Twice shines brightest.
As Don’t Think Twice progresses, the audience is treated to a sort of “coming of age” film if there were such a thing for thirtysomethings. There’s a level of resistance to growing up in many a comic so the “coming of age” angle might not be far off. While containing enough laughs to satisfy those seeking some comic relief, Don’t Think Twice actually has a more effective dramatic side to it. The naturally funny cast can’t help but make you laugh but what is special here is the unexpected poignancy and spot on depiction of the ups and downs of dreaming big. Not everyone can make it. For those who don’t, it’s a cold bucket of ice water dumped on you when you realize you probably never will.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- A True Ensemble Piece
There is true balance within the cast as no one player stands out amongst the group. This isn’t a bad thing as it’s not because no one has the strength to but more because the entire cast is willing to allow someone else to own the spotlight. Unlike their improv group which is falling apart at the seems, Birbiglia and company deliver a balanced and equally impressive performance where no one person is bigger than the ensemble.
- That Indie Feel
In scale and scope, Don’t Think Twice checks all of the boxes of an independent film. Birbiglia has a knack for combining sweet comedy and sour drama in a dish that is unexpectedly delightful.