ReelBob: ‘Don’t Think Twice’

By Bob Bloom

“Don’t Think Twice” is a bittersweet and sad comedy.

And, while that may seem contradictory, the film’s premise supports that notion.

The movie, written and directed by Mike Birbiglia, centers on an improv comedy troupe, called The Commune and the drama that commences when one of its members leaves to join the cast of “Weekend Live,” a late-night TV comedy show, modeled after “Saturday Night Live.”

The film is a case study of envy and jealousy, as members of the troupe react in various ways to the defection of one of their own for a more popular, mainstream and higher-paying venue.

It feels as if the troupe emotionally deflates when Jack Mercer (Keegan-Michael Key) ascends a rung up the comedy ladder.

Birbiglia, who plays Miles, one of the founders of The Commune — and who was rejected when auditioning years earlier for “Weekend Live” — feels not so much betrayed as covetous of Jack’s success.

Miles, at 36, remains under the delusion that he also can climb higher on the comedy food chain. Miles, though, is emotionally stunted, using his position as a teacher of other aspiring improv comedians, to woo female students into bed.

A heavy air of desperation weighs on “Don’t Think Twice.” The troupe members all frantically seek validation, recognition and — most importantly — praise from each other, celebrities, students, family and audience members.

While they continually extol the virtues of improvisation and their little family, they all want to crack the mainstream of show business, instead of clinging to the sidelines.

The greatest impact of Jack’s departure falls on Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), a Commune member who also is his cohabitating girlfriend. As Jack gets more and more involved with his new career, their relationship and lives begin to drift apart.

Sam, who blew off her audition for the show, revels in the spontaneity of improvisation, believing it is a pure form of comedy.

And while the troupe continually pledges loyalty to one another, as individuals they serve their own agendas.

Lindsay (Tami Sagher) has been secretly submitting material to “Weekend Live” and is eventually hired as a writer.

Allison (Kate Micucci) has been working for nine years on a graphic novel, while also partnering with Commune cohort, the quiet and insecure Bill (Chris Gethard), on writing comic sketches that she usually tears up and tosses.

Eventually, various forces — financial, emotional and personal — puts enormous strains on the troupe.

The movie’s one drawback is a finale that wraps up many of the individual conflicts too neatly and easily.

That aside, “Don’t Think Twice” pulls back the curtain on comedy, showing that making people laugh is not only a grueling profession, but also a draining one.

As the troupe comes to realize, there is more to life than comedy, and you can’t continue to do improv forever.

“Don’t Think Twice” will make you laugh. It also may make you cry. And it definitely will give you an appreciation of those brave souls who step out on a stage every night to take our minds off our problems and make us laugh at the world, them — and ourselves.

Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at bobbloomjc@gmail.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom.

DON’T THINK TWICE
3½ stars out of 4
(R), language, drug use, sexual situations

  • ReelBob

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