Review: Don’t Think Twice by Sarah

As the film ended and the lights in the theater came back on, the couple sitting in front of me kissed.
It was a simple, spontaneous gesture; a sharing of life, of love, of intimacy.
That’s exactly what this film is, and that is what it so clearly inspired in the audience. In that moment, they weren’t sharing a PDA. They were simply sharing a moment.
A quick summary of the plot: An improv group in New York City is disrupted when one of its members (Keegan-Michael Key) gets a shot at The Big Time, a slot on Weekend Live (a clear Saturday Night Live stand-in). His rise to fame is quick, and everyone is hoping to ride his coattails.
The only problem is, his coattails aren’t big enough for everyone.
Who is going to get left behind, and who is going to land their dream job?
It would be so easy for this to be a film about a ragtag group of losers who are looking for their break to stardom. On a base level, perhaps that’s what it is. Except, it is also much more. It would have been easy for Mike Birbiglia, the talented writer and director, to have made these people pitiable and pathetic. It would have been easy to have made it a story of fame corrupting and twisting everything good. It would have been easy to make it a rags-to-riches story. But, Mike Birbiglia didn’t settle for easy. Instead, he made a complex, beautiful, and funny film about adults growing up.
Sometimes, the showboat gets rewarded.
Sometimes, the rich get richer.
Sometimes, the ones who need it most have to let go.
Sometimes, that’s just the way life is.
And, sometimes, maybe that’s okay.
At its heart, this is about friendship. These people love each other and are for each other no matter what. They also hate each other, bicker, endlessly mock each other, and are simultaneously ridiculously proud and insanely jealous for every good break anyone else gets.
Their chemistry on-stage and off-stage is natural, funny, warm, and engaging. The audience is immediately drawn into their warm friendship, and we want so badly for all of them to get exactly what they want.
Of course, that’s now how life works.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be happy endings, they just aren’t the endings you expect.
The stand-out performance for me was definitely Gillian Jacobs. I’ve been a fan of hers since Community, and it was an absolute joy to see her get to show her full range. She imbued her character with depth and warmth, vulnerability and strength, and grace and humor. The scene where she has in Improv an entire scene alone on a stage is funny and heart-breaking. Her transformation throughout the film as a glorified fan of Improv who participates but is uncertain of her own place in the world, to the expert who teaches and even sacrifices for her art form, is touching and subtle.
Perhaps more than anything else, this movie understands comedy. Some of the jokes land, some don’t. That’s just the way comedy works, you throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. What’s important is that you have your friends to fall back on.
Some of the sketches we see on Weekend Live (there aren’t a lot) are great, some don’t go anywhere, but it’s all things you would reasonably see on Saturday Night Live. There aren’t any of the false-ringing, heavy-handed sketches of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.
This film also doesn’t make any bones about comedy being an industry. Those who have made it leave people behind, because those who are worthy break through and those who aren’t flounder. You can’t make room for everyone, and if you’re not careful your own place on the top of the heap will be in jeopardy. Key does a great job portraying coming to terms with this reality. His character is a jerk sometimes, sure, but he’s not a villain. He’s a good guy just doing the best he can.
So far, for me, this is by far the best film of the year, and it’s one of the best films about comedy ever. Mike Birbiglia also wrote and directed Sleepwalk With Me, and between these two features, he is my new favorite filmmaker. He understands people, he understands life, and he understands why the things that make us laugh also make us cry.

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