‘Don’t Think Twice’, Mike Birbiglia’s second feature-length film, follows a year in the life of a tight-knit improve group based in New York in both their acting lives as ‘The Commune’ and their not quite so desirable lives outside. When Jack (Keegan-Michael Kay) finally gets his big break with The Weekend Live, the show they’ve all been vying for, the group slowly starts to tear at the seams as they also have to deal with their theatre being sold and the reality of what they haven’t achieved in their lives dawning on them.
It was actually quite weird watching a film about actors – especially because of how similar it felt to a documentary at the beginning. Parts of it felt real, and it did make me wonder if any of the scenes were actually improvised. The filming style was noticeably intimate, and so it was easy to feel part of the group, and relate to their lives despite only watching from the sidelines. There were also some beautifully symbolic shots (such as the stage chairs representing members of the group) which reinforced that feeling of creative performance.
The element that I found most impressive about the film was how well the actors worked alongside each other – there was this chemistry there that is often not quite so noticeable in other films. Gillian Jacobs, who played Sam, was star of the show (it was easy to see the range of her acting skills throughout, and particularly towards the end), yet the other characters all added something as well – Birbiglia himself played an arrogant yet still likable Miles, and Chris Gethard was great as the self-deprecating Bill who struggles to deal with his relationship with his Dad. Kate Micucci and Tami Sagher also complemented the team wonderfully as diffident Allison and pothead Lindsay, and Kay needs a special mention for his wonderful portrayal of that friend we’ve all had that puts himself before the rest. The film just wouldn’t have been the same if one of them were missing.
As a non-actor I can’t tell you how accurate this is regarding the acting world (although many other reviews seem to suggest that it is), but I still took a lot away from it, as the concept is just so transferable. Seeing a group of friends fall apart like that will resonate with many, as will the feeling of failure and wasting of time. It’s a bittersweet film, as it’s both comedy and drama at the same time – the comedy is hilarious, yet the drama is increasingly tragic. What started off as heart-warming and amusing eventually became poignant and heart-wrenching, and it was quite something to experience all of those things at once. Birbiglia certainly pulled this off, with the depth of emotion something that I couldn’t pull myself away from.
The premise is really simple, and yet the result of it is so powerful it really does make you think (thus breaking the third rule of improv). It’s enjoyable to watch, yet also painful if you can relate to it. If you want something that’s clever and reflective, rather than just a few laughs, then ‘Don’t Think Twice’ should be next on your list. 5/5
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