Mike Birbiglia gets meta in his second spin as a feature writer and director. Don’t Think Twice follows a New York improv group whose members are a little family all their own. But, the dynamic that makes them work well together on stage is tested when a shot at fame comes calling for only one of their number.
Birbiglia co-stars as Miles, the defacto leader of the group who teaches improv, sleeps with some of his students and watches others go on to bigger and better thing. He’s joined in The Commune by Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), Bill (Chris Gethard), Allison (Kate Micucci) and Lindsay (Tami Sagher). We meet the group at their best and watch as they navigate a number of challenges that arise. Fame, opportunity, age, family, drive and relationships all factor in, but none is so simply explained because this is a picture that’s concerned with nuance.
Birbiglia has scripted characters that are dynamic and flawed and then put his faith in his talent ensemble to make them human. That trust is well-rewarded. These relationships and characters feel lived in as if we’re staring through a window at their lives. It goes almost without saying that the performances are solid across the board. But, Chris Gethard and Gillian Jacobs emerge as the most memorable turns. It’s true, they are given arguably the greatest range of material to work with, but the end result is a film that feels more substantial for their efforts.
It may come as a surprise to many viewers, but this movie about improv, written and directed by a comedian and brought to life by a cast well known for their comedic chops does not put humor ahead of everything else. Humanity comes first. Interpersonal relationships come next. Laughs are third or fourth down the line of things you’ll remember about Don’t Think Twice.
This lighthearted examination of life and friendship and the twin pursuits of happiness and dreams comes recommended to anyone who has ever grappled with their own expectations. But, it’s a must for those who are fans of Mike Birbiglia and his cast. Don’t Think Twice feels like their love letter to their art and all of its imperfections.
Don’t Think Twice expands into select theaters August 5.
All images: Courtesy Jon Pack