Finding humor in the realities of life seems to be Mike Birbiglia’s signature style of filmmaking. First, his indie hit “Sleepwalk with Me,” charmed audiences with his self-deprecating look at love and making it in the improvisational world. His recently released second feature film, “Don’t Think Twice” shows that same charisma, but with a more refined and complex story that makes you laugh and touches your heart as you relate with each and every character. Birbiglia strikes gold with “Don’t Think Twice,” starring Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, and of course, Birbiglia.
The film is about a comedy troupe, The Commune, similar to one such as Chicago’s Second City, who are all trying to hit the big time. As their company’s location closes its doors, they each have a sense of urgency in figuring out what their next step will be. This family of friends has their loyalty and love tested when one member of their group is up for a huge break. We get a beautiful glimpse inside the inner-workings of a comedy act and the personalities behind these individuals while they see their lives unfold, perhaps in a direction not to their liking. It’s filled with laugh out loud humor and even a few suppressed tears. Ok. I’ll admit it. I couldn’t suppress mine.
Jack (Key) and Samantha (Jacobs) are a couple which definitely adds a level of stress and interesting conflict inside the gears of comedy. Bill (Chris Gethard) is the meek and mild mannered soul with a heart of gold who seems to be able to read and understand those around him…sometimes to his detriment. Lindsay (Tami Sagher) is the privileged rich girl who tries to be one of the gang, but she’s always just a bit off. Allison (Kate Micucci) will steal your heart, while Miles (Birbiglia), the teacher who seems to have already peaked in his career and resents this, is the glue that holds them all together. Each and every character has a story to tell which adds to the beauty of their interactions. We get the best of both worlds in this film as we have front and center seats to parts of comedy sets while we actually get to know the characters off stage.
Key has the performance of his career in “Don’t Think Twice.” Obviously, he’s hilarious with his comedic timing and delivery, but who knew that he could be a convincing dramatic actor as well. It’s a demanding role in that the weight of believability is truly placed on Key’s shoulders. He readily takes on the challenge and gives us exactly what is needed. Jacobs, having no improvisational experience, makes us think otherwise. She’s hilarious when it’s appropriate and then in a blink of an eye, she reminds us that she’s real as she portrays feelings of jealousy, love, and hurt in a wondrously intelligent way. Birbiglia somehow beautifully balances writing, directing, and acting in this film. He seems so natural at playing the type of character that you just want to hug and then kick in the butt to get him motivated. Gethard’s performance is genuine and sincere, finding the subtlties of acting and comedy to pull the story along the proper course. And finally, we have Micucci and Sagher to round out the leads with a sense of reality.
“Don’t Think Twice” is simply hilarious and heartwarming. Finding a way to tell a story about the realities of balancing career and life, bringing us into and behind the scenes of a comedy troupe, all the while making us care about each and every character is quite a feat. Birbiglia is strong as the writer/director/actor and has found exactly the right combination of actors to give his script life. Life is complex and this film portrays the humor as well as the ups and downs while still entertaining the audience.