Don’t Think Twice is a movie I didn’t know was coming until I saw it at SXSW this year actually. I’m a big fan of Mike Birbiglia as a comedian and his first film, Sleepwalk With Me, was a well told story with an interesting style and his voice as it was based off his standup. So needless to say I was quite excited to see his sophomore feature and to see how he handled a narrative not well rehearsed from his standup and his life. I didn’t get to review it after SXSW but I did get a chance to see it again now and I’m happy to share my feelings on it.
The film tells the story of a New York improv group called The Commune who share an almost familial bond their friendship and trust of each other is so close. The semi-leader (and at least senior member) is Miles (Birbiglia) who along with Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Sam (Gillian Jacobs), Allison (Kate Miccuci), Bill (Chris Gethard), and Lindsey (Tami Sagher) form the troupe. The group is akin to Second City in that they are a group that has been in existence for a while that has had a few members be hired to a long running Saturday Night Live-esque show. That is the dream of pretty much everyone in the troupe, to get a job that would pay them to do what they love instead of doing it on the side around what they have to do to pay the bills otherwise. Things start to get tense when that fame calls for two of the members and the others start to feel left in the dust and unable to do what they love.
The cast is really the heart of the movie as they breathe life into these characters bringing both their great comedy chops to the improv as well as a lot of heart to their personal moment. Birbiglia shows that he still knows how to act and builds a great character that is a little scummy and rough around the edges but cares for his friends and his art. Key brings the great same energy and humor he brought to his show Key and Peele showing why his character would take off but he also gets some very sweet moments with Gillian Jacobs as his girlfriend Sam. Jacobs I think is the stand out here and gets probably the most time on screen. I know her work well from Community where she plays Britta and Sam at times shares a lot with Britta and her awkwardness outside of her element, performing, and her commitment to her friends and Jacobs really gets to the heart of it. Miccuci is one of my favorite comedic performers since her time on Scrubs and she brings a lot of her fun energy her. However, Miccuci, Gethard and Sagher (the two I know the least) seem to get used less than I’d have wanted, even with Gethard having family issues at the heart of his story. All three do a wonderful job with their roles but they almost feel like they almost feel outside the main story that focuses more on Jack, Sam and Miles.
Birbiglia does a wonderful job of really showing the world of improv in a loving way and what it means to those that perform it. This isn’t that surprising as he is an experienced improv performer, I believe actually with Gethard and Sagher. I believe the two actors in the movie with the least improv experience going in were Jacobs and Miccuci actually but they seemed to be a natural fit in the film and I heard that the group actually performed improv together as their fictional troupe prior to production so they melded naturally. It’s shows intelligence as a director to have your cast unify like that before rolling film and it shows in the film. Birbiglia also shows growth as a writer telling a story that is personal to many improv performers but seemingly unusual to him and much of the audience but still feels real and grounded. I just wish he could’ve found more of a way to keep the whole cast in the forefront of the narrative as they all brought so much to the movie for me. In the end though it does tell a good story with some great characters and great laughs with characters you really can relate to and love.
Birgbiglia puts forth another really solid film that is both funny and heartfelt at the same time that is nothing if not enjoyable. With a stellar cast of comedians giving strong performances I really have to recommend this film especially to anyone with any interest in improv and also anyone who is already a fan of any of the stars of the film as they are all great here.