The Commune charges $5 a ticket for improv comedy. Comprised of young and highly talented comedians, all share the same dream; to be on Weekend Live. All work day jobs that they aren’t in love with and spend their free time creating characters and material for sketch comedy with the hope of getting spotted by a talent agent that could get them an audition for the beloved weekend comedy show. Miles (Mike Birbiglia) is in his mid-30’s, perpetually teaching improv courses and having failed brief romances with his students. Sam (Gillian Jacobs) and Jack (Keegan-Michael Key) are a ridiculously funny couple who do delivery runs during the day and funny voices at night. Allison (Kate Mucucci of Garfunkel and Oates) works quietly on her graphic novel. Bill (Chris Gethard) works at a grocery store passing out hummus as his father bemoans his lack of interest in real estate. Lindsay (Tami Sagher) lives with her wealthy parents and quietly writes to her heart’s content. Without comedy all feel like there’s not much in the world for them, and unfortunately they’ve just learned the Commune theater is closing. When Jack and Sam are singled out for an audition with Weekend Live, they are delighted. Unfortunately, they break the news of the audition just as Bill discovers his father was in a horrible accident. As Bill deals with his father’s hospitalization, Jack and Sam prepare to hopefully change their lives. On the day of the audition, Jack impresses the Weekend Live staff, but Sam has an anxiety attack and fails to show up. The group dramatic begins to take a nose dive as Jack starts his new life on his dream show, and the rest of the Commune staff struggle to find a way into the writing circle of Weekend Live.
Anyone who has listened to Mike Birbiglia on This American Life knows that while he is considered a comedian, at heart he is far more of a storyteller. He manages to tell convoluted and awkwardly hilarious stories, and Don’t Think Twice is no exception. His producer for this film, Ira Glass, and he have worked many times together on This American Life and you can tell there was a lot of trust that went into this project. Birbiglia does double triple duty with writing, acting, and directing Don’t Think Twice. He pulls this off brilliantly. The casting is perfect. No one in the cast is too famous to be believable in the role, yet no one lacks the experience to really pull off a solid performance. Jacobs and Key are incredibly fun to watch and play off each other well.
Many critics have extolled the humorous quality of Don’t Think Twice, but at the core of the film is a powerful story of how people respond to the success of others as they struggle. As Jack does well, he tries to make sure his friends are doing okay and maintain his position. The others want to externally support Jack, but internally seethe because they were passed over. You can feel the group begin to disintegrate the second Jack tells them he’s been hired by Weekend Live. We’ve all been there when someone gets something we’ve desperately been hoping for. It’s rough, and this film doesn’t pretend that it’s an easy ride.
Don’t Think Twice is a strong film, but don’t go in expecting it to be a light comedy. The film confronts topics like dealing with the death of your parents, what it means to be a parent of a child that isn’t yours, and the challenges of leaning to let go and just be happy for the success of others.
Don’t Think Twice is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.