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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

DON'T THINK TWICE: Tribeca Review

Courtesy of The Film Arcade
2016, 90 minutes
Not Rated

Review by Joshua Handler

Many films have been made about the art of comedy, but few, if any, have been as expertly executed as Mike Birbiglia's newest film, Don't Think Twice, an ensemble film about The Commune, an improv troupe whose members face resentment when one of their members, Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), is hired by Weekend Live (a parody of SNL) and the rest of the members aren't. 

The film revolves around the theme of improv being something that only happens for a brief moment in one's life before leaving. This bittersweet theme informs the tone of the film, creating something that's alternately laugh-out-loud funny and heartbreaking. With Don't Think Twice, it's almost as if Birbiglia has captured lightening in a bottle. The main ensemble is in perfect sync, the jokes land hard, and the drama stings. It's like a comedic symphony.

Birbiglia has not set out to simply make his audiences laugh - that would be far too simple. His film is a complex storm of emotions that, not unlike Jill Soloway's devastating Transparent, often mixes hard laughs with moments of harsh drama. But, like his characters, Birbiglia never forgets that at the end of the day, no matter what has transpired, we all need to laugh. Through scenes both improvised and scripted, Birbiglia and cast earn every laugh, and laughs were in ample supply at Monday evening's New York Premiere.

Also of note are Gillian Jacobs' performance as Samantha, Jack's girlfriend and Commune co-member, and Joe Anderson's naturalistic cinematography. Jacobs' performance is the beating heart behind the film, and with raw messiness, Jacobs carries much of the film's emotional weight. Her (and the film's) climactic scene are nearly transcendent.

Anderson, a very talented cinematographer whose work on Andrew Renzi's previous two films (both Tribeca world premieres), Fishtail and The Benefactor (previously titled Franny) was nothing short of astounding, does more excellent work here, using fluid camera movements to capture the loose nature of the comedy.

Overall, Don't Think Twice is not only one of the best of the dozen or so films I've seen thus far at Tribeca, it's one of the most insightful films about comedy to have been made. Birbiglia has created something very special, something that comedians will appreciate as much as general filmgoers. This is a universal story about friendships and the lines we all must walk when navigating them. When Don't Think Twice releases this summer, it's very important that you see it. Small indie films like this one need all the support they can get so that filmmakers like Mike Birbiglia can continue creating gems like Don't Think Twice.


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