Mike Birbiglia’s latest film is as dramatic as it is funny.
Director Mike Birbiglia’s first film, Sleepwalk with Me, is what originally got producer Miranda Bailey interested in his work. Now, several years later, the pair premiered his latest offering, Don’t Think Twice, which Bailey co-produced with “This American Life” creator Ira Glass and Amanda Marshall.
The film follows the lives of six members of an improv group who perform nightly as a group called ‘The Commune’. Each member is portrayed by a comic veteran who contributes to the group dynamic and adds his or her own particular flair and sense of humor. This all-star comic cast is made up of Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, and Birbiglia himself.
At the film’s outset, The Commune is going about their usual routine, performing and living off little but the laughs of the crowd. Reality quickly descends upon the group as each member is confronted with outside pressures; some positive and some not so much. Ultimately, each of the comedians in the cast has their acting skills put to the test as the initially funny film reveals itself to be quite a heartfelt drama. Somehow, Birbiglia has realized that the serious moments feel that much more so when they are contrasted with the hilarious ones.
The plot of the film straddles itself between the struggle of professional and personal aspirations and the struggle of aging. Miles (Birbiglia) ends up finding personal happiness and success even if he never gets the professional success he’d always dreamed of. Jack (Key) is the one who ends up getting this success, but it turns out to not be as wonderful as it had looked from a distance. Sam (Jacobs) has a chance to become as successful as Jack and is forced to realize that things in her life are going to change whether she wants them to or not.
Ultimately, the true achievement of the film is that each character is equally relatable. Despite the fact that each character is going through issues of their own, they each manage to maintain their sense of humor, which is what lends the film its unique character and charm. Few movies move so easily from laughs to tears and back again.
If there is one fault in the film, it’s the character of Jack. Though relatable, Jack does not come off as very likeable. Key’s performance as a funny-man is talented enough, but when he shifts into more serious situations, he feels slightly more disingenuous. In this way, the casting of Key as Jack is actually quite fitting. The character who is at first the funniest of the group also turns out to be the biggest jerk. Despite the little epilogue that shows how well all of the core characters have made up, it’s hard to not harbor a little resentment towards Jack. Ironically, this becomes the most true to life moment of all since one gets the sense that it is impossible to ever fully forgive Jack for his treatment of his friends, just like how Key will never fully fit into such a complex and dramatic role.
Don’t Think Twice is directed by Mike Birbiglia and stars him, Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci, and Tami Sagher. The film opened in New York on July 22nd and will open in LA and Chicago on the 29th and in theaters nationwide in August.
Photo credits: NPR.