We don’t all end up in the same places. In any group of friends someone is going to move on toward success, family, happiness, and someone will get left behind. Some of us even choose to stay in the past, too fearful to move on and change ourselves and our lives. Change is one of the greatest challenges in life. Can who we are in our thirties still deeply relate to the people we dreamed with in our twenties? Many of us age past our initial and adolescent dreams. We have to find new places to hope because we’ve changed too much to be satisfied with what we thought we wanted. Sadly, some of us realize we just aren’t going to get what we worked for so hard after all. This universal experience is the essential premise of Mike Birbiglia’s second film Don’t Think Twice. The film follows a New York City improvisational group and cohort of creative weirdos through the last gasps of their idealism. The group has to deal with fading hopes as they work demeaning day jobs and face the closure of their theatre space to make room for another Urban Outfitters. Suddenly, some producers from “Weekend Live” (standing in for SNL) show up to scout the troupe. Eventually one of the gang makes it to the top while the rest are left to sort out life on the bottom.
Truthfully, this movie could really be about anything because what it is principally about is saying goodbye. It’s about saying goodbye to the people you were and in some cases the person you thought you’d become. Over time people and priorities change and the result is shifting ground under familiar friendships. How do insecure comedic performers deal with success, failure, and all the place in between? The same way the rest of us do just with more jokes. Don’t Think Twice is funny but in the way real life is funny or real funny people are funny. It isn’t movie funny and that is its greatest strength. The movie feels mostly real in most places. With the exception of a Brazilian baby subplot the movie seems grounded in the real experiences of anyone over thirty. Birbiglia’s writing and direction is as soft and sharp as his gentle but witty stand up. The only issues I found was that the ensemble narrative kept me from really getting inside most of the characters emotionally. I felt the most strongly for Gillian Jacobs (Community) as the little girl to afraid of success to stop being a mess. We are given more scenes about her interior motivation and fragility so we can connect more deeply to her story. There isn’t a bad performance but in a ninety-minute feature the story can only spend so long on one person. Kate Micucci (Garfunkel and Oates) and Chris Gethard (Anonymous) get the shortest end of the plot stick even with a sub plot involving Gethard’s father.
Birbiglia makes a wise and selfless choice by putting himself into the background by the end of the film. A lesser movie would have made Keegan-Michael Key a traitorous villain with a third act redemption (this one almost does) and Birbiglia the honorable hero. Not here. This movie shows the scumbag in us all and the true friend. In this way the movie excels. It pin points the terrible jealous and fickle as well as the fiercely loyal and loving human heart. We all resent those friends with bigger salaries, better jobs, happier marriages, or cooler Instagram’s. Yet we are simultaneously happy for the one’s we love when they get to taste the good in life. Certain scenes, like one at a Weekend Live after party, remind us of our own fights with good friends and fellow jerks.
Don’t Think Twice is one of the best reviewed films of 2016 and this is well earned praise. At this time the film is in limited release but if you can find it go see it. It is one of the funnies, saddest, and most real movies you’ll see all year.
- Director Mike Birbiglia
- Writer Mike Birbiglia
- Stars Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs,Mike Birbiglia, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci
- Running Time 1h 32m
- Genres Comedy, Drama