Monthly Archives: July 2016

Film Review: Don’t Think Twice

Film Review: Don’t Think Twice

Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice is an honest, funny look at professional rivalry and its effect on the members of an improv troupe. Many of the issues raised, however, could apply to any competitive profession. How to cope-or remain friends- when some succeed and others do not?Don't Think Twice snapshot

That is exactly the challenge confronting The Commune, a New York improv group whose members are friends offstage. Miles (Birbiglia) is their leader and, for most, teacher. Everyone is thoroughly grounded in the three rules of improv-say yes, it’s all about the group, and don’t think.

Early on, their professional security is threatened when their longtime performance space is sold. This turns out to be a minor problem compared to what happens next. A member of the troupe, Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), lands a spot on Weekend Live (a fairly clear Saturday Night Live knock-off).Don't Think Twice Overalls

Jack’s success has repercussions within the group, starting with his girlfriend Samantha (Gillian Jacobs). Samantha, who is happy with the status quo, balks at changes in their relationship caused by Jack’s new gig. Bill (Chris Gethard) and Allison (Kate Micucci) renew their focus on writing projects-in Bill’s case, submissions for Weekend Live. Lindsay (Tami Sagher), another aspiring writer, is from a wealthy family and somewhat guilty about her privilege. Her feelings are further conflicted by her envy of Jack’s success. Miles has the most difficulty of all, watching his former student get his dream job.

Birbiglia is a seasoned improv performer, as are most of the other cast members. The sole exception is Gillian Jacobs (Community). In a Q & A following the screening, Birbiglia and Jacobs talked about Birbiglia’s process to ease Jacobs into improv. Kate Micucci, who had not done improv recently, trained along with Jacobs. The entire cast had two weeks of performing before a live audience. Some of the improv shown in the film is footage from those performances.Don't Think Twice Watching Jack

All that preparation pays off; the group has an easy chemistry that adds a great deal to their routines. Don’t Think Twice has quite a few improv routines that occur off-stage, as well. You get the feeling you are eavesdropping on a bunch of friends who just happen to be uncommonly funny. Good camera and editing work (by Joe Anderson and Geoffrey Richman, respectively) do a lot to reinforce this.

At the same time, Birbiglia carefully avoids tipping the balance toward outright farce. Not all character arcs are shown in the same level of detail, but the audience understands why troupe members feel and act as they do. Narrative developments feel organic to what has come before. Birbiglia also does an excellent job with that difficult animal, tone. It takes a lot of work to make something look this effortless, and I applaud him for the result.Don't Think Twice Without Jack

Theme: Professional Rivalry

Related Posts: Film Appreciation: Broadcast News  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-broadcast-news-2/

Professional Rivalry: List For Week Ending July 31, 2016  http://www.thinkingcinema.com/professional-rivalry-list-for-week-ending-july-31-2016/

Sources: NPR: How Mike Birbiglia Applies “Yes, And” To Improv and Beyond  http://www.npr.org/2016/07/23/486735247/how-mike-birbiglia-applies-yes-and-to-improv-and-beyond

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4972062/

 

 

 

Film Appreciation: Broadcast News

Film Appreciation: Broadcast News

  Tom Grunnick: What do you do when your real life exceeds your dreams? Aaron Altman: Keep it to yourself. I have written about James Brooks’ 1987 Broadcast News in this space before (http://www.thinkingcinema.com/film-appreciation-broadcast-news/). My reason for choosing it a second time is that its theme of professional rivalry is similar to this week’s reviewContinue Reading

Film Review: Absolutely Fabulous

Film Review: Absolutely Fabulous

You do not have to be a fan of the 1990s television show Absolutely Fabulous to enjoy the feature version, but it helps. The film plays like an extended episode of the series, and it has many of the same strengths and weaknesses. One huge weakness, in my opinion, is that the film offers noContinue Reading

Made From TV: List For Week Ending July 24, 2016

Made From TV: List For Week Ending July 24, 2016

Films on this week’s list all started as TV series. Some, like Absolutely Fabulous and The Brady Bunch Movie, are based on comedies. Others, like The Fugitive and The Untouchables, are dramas. What do they have in common? Great viewing on small and big screen. This is not intended as an all-inclusive list. Reader suggestionsContinue Reading

Film Review: Equals

Film Review: Equals

In his last two films, Like Crazy and Breathe In, filmmaker Drake Doremus dealt with the effects of all-consuming love. His new film, Equals, takes a different view of romance. I found the plot of Equals derivative, although the film does have redeeming elements in its cinematography and one key performance. The story is setContinue Reading

Film Appreciation: Gattaca

Film Appreciation: Gattaca

Andrew Niccol’s debut feature, Gattaca, had a slow start on its release in 1997, in spite of favorable reviews. It has more than compensated, becoming a favorite even with people who do not ordinarily care for science fiction. The film’s star Ethan Hawke said, ”I liked Gattaca because that was the kind of science fiction IContinue Reading

Film Review: Captain Fantastic

Film Review: Captain Fantastic

The tag line for Matt Ross’ new film Captain Fantastic is “He prepared them for everything except the outside world”. It is the story of an unconventional father, Ben (Viggo Mortensen), who faces challenges to his idyllic but rigorous lifestyle, many of which come from his own children. Ben and his wife Leslie (Trin Miller,Continue Reading