Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Now on Netflix: Don't Think Twice (2016)

Don't Think Twice (2016) - Written and Directed by Mike Birbiglia; Starring Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Birbiglia, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagher, Chris Gethard.

By Kenny Howell

I love live improv.

Every time I go to Chicago, the first thing I plan is to buy tickets to a Second City show, and it is the thing I most look forward to, even more than the Cubs.

But what works so well in an audience, doesn't always work in a taped show. It is just something you have to experience in person, something you are a part of even as an audience member, even though the talented performers on stage or the ones that do all the heavy lifting.

That doesn't translate too well in Don't Think Twice, Mike Birbiglia's new film about a improv group that is torn apart when one of its members makes it big and gets on the movie's equivalent of Saturday Night Live, here called Weekend Live. The improv scenes are not that funny, which granted, improv can sometimes be. But it takes away from a bit because you are supposed to think these guys are the best, good enough to be on Saturday Night Live.

Keegan-Michael Key's Jack Mercer is that player who takes his opportunity during one of their shows to show off his range, which impresses the talent scouts in the audience. It angers his castmates because he took himself out of the show to grandstand, but it works. That leads to the strength of the movie which is how everyone reacts to him getting the job they always wanted. They are happy for their friend, but jealous beyond belief. Some feel that they are better than him, and some don't understand what they don't have that he does.

Those feelings start tearing them apart, and in addition to that battle, their theater is closing, so the examination of their next steps, and possibly giving up their dreams comes into play. His girlfriend Samantha, played by Gillian Jacobs (Seeking a Friend at the End of the World), has it the worst because Jack leaves her a bit behind, especially because she auditioned at the same time as he. It drastically changes their relationship, and alters what her future holds.

Birbiglia (Sleepwalk With Me) isn't afraid to show the real negative sides of his characters, and really examine those feelings. The film seems a bit disjointed at times, and the improv scenes could have landed better, but it is another solid effort by Birbiglia.

Don't Think Twice is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: **1/2

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