Saturday, August 20, 2016

Don't Think Twice (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Don't Think Twice

The low key, yet pointed, Mike Birbiglia highlights the perils of friendship and fame in the world of television comedy with his film "Don't Think Twice." This heartfelt and human story, more of a drama than a comedy is minimal, honest, and unflinching in detail. In its spirited but melancholy intrigue, the film reaches a tone reminiscent of early Woody Allen. Certain scenes are jabbing and funny. To the film's credit however, a shadow of loss is never far behind.

Comedian Keegan-Michael Key stars as Jack, a longtime improv member who dreams of being a regular on the popular show "Weekend Live" (a barely fictionalized "SNL" program). Jack loves his troupe The Commune, but the unpaid grind is wearing him down. Producers come to see the improv and like it but they overlook him.

Jack vows to be persistent and his co-member girlfriend Samantha (Gillian Jacobs) encourages him. One day, a few from "Weekend Live" see the show and are struck by Jacck. The troupe is extremely close knit, woven into the concrete fabric of New York City itself. An existential guilt comes upon Jack like a noose.

Director Birbiglia co-stars as the improv's founder who lives in a child-sized room and can't seem to catch a break.

The group is predominantly obsessive and superstitious. Though each one of them thinks of notoriety, most would decline, thinking improv a higher calling, while the theater is legendary. In the midst of surreptitious egotism, there are the friendships with the milquetoast Bill (Chris Gethard) a Goth and arty Allison (Kate Miccussi) and a compulsive Lindsay (Tami Sagher).

The film is especially touching in its portrait of a goup wanting to hold on to their highly exclusive art, along with the rare intimacies and rituals of  a community theater. By acting and believing, the troupe performs in defiance of the mainstream.

Keegan-Michael Key, a comedian who is usually over the top and slapstick, is excellent as a good hearted man subtly consumed. This interior film will keep you guessing; it is as much about human nature as it is about free associative hijinks. "Don't Think Twice" packs a punch line that is both wistful and brusque with surprise.

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