“Don’t Think Twice” — Mike Birbiglia’s newest film venture — will be released in local theaters on Friday, after enchanting viewers on its countrywide screening tour.
Birbiglia’s first film, the semi-autobiographical “Sleepwalk With Me,” was a Sundance hit. While still accepting the auteur theory, Birbiglia decided to do something a little different for his second dance with the silver screen — fiction.
The stand-up comedian’s subject matter still hit close to home.
“Don’t Think Twice” follows a close-knit improv troupe, “The Commune,” following the hire of one of its members on “Weekend Live,” a very obvious Saturday Night Live mockup, complete with celebrity hosts and the overtly peppy opening credits.
After learning that their theater will be closing, characters are forced to grapple with the fact that there may be no “big break” for them after all. All Commune members deal with this fact differently in the way they all know how — they improvise.
In a Q&A after a Minneapolis screening last month, Birbiglia told the audience about his fascination with films that feel “more like life than they do a movie.”
This ideal is realized in “Don’t Think Twice” — comedic moments are met with realism in a far-from-fantastical way: Bittersweet and insightful with just enough gut-wrench to keep you thinking about it long after Bob Dylan’s melody fades from the closing credits.
Instead of cheap and raunchy gags, jokes are funny in the “funniest thing your best friend has ever said, but no one else better have heard because they’ll think you’re an awful person” way.
You see the mocking of semi-comatose fathers and the college dorm-room way of living when you’re well into your thirties. You also see well-working and believable relationships which, thanks to audience investment, makes their imminent demise much harder.
Birbiglia directs himself in the film along with a host of other comedians. Other members of “The Commune” are portrayed by Keegan Michael-Key, Gillian Jacobs, Chris Gethard, Tami Sagher and Kate Micucci. The cast’s chemistry was believable — an important factor when portraying a close-knit group.
According to the film’s press release, the idea for the film originated when Birbiglia’s wife commented on the difference between stand-up and improv cultures.
“I thought it was an interesting premise for a movie — the idea that in an improv group, everyone is equal until they’re not. The principals of art are like socialism, and life is capitalism. Not everything is fair. I started writing a screenplay based on that,” Birbiglia said.
Even for someone not involved in improv, the film was shockingly relevant. The upsets that come with success can be applied to any situation — nothing, good or bad, can stay the same.
I laughed, I cried and — against better advising — I’ve thought more than twice about it.