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DON'T THINK TWICE, watch it once

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Mike Birbiglia, a man you might have seen in a series like Billions, or live in New York, has made a new movie called Don't Think Twice. In it, he chronicles the life and death of an improv group, along with his own coming of age story. The movie is produced by This American Life's Ira Glass and it has been workshopped through many, many improv night around New York City.

At the heart of the group are Jack (Keegan-Michael Key), a show-off who does a good impression of Barack Obama, and his live-in girlfriend, Samantha (Gillian Jacobs), who doesn't want to pressure of being succesful. Bill (Chris Gethard) has shaky self-esteem except when he’s performing. Lindsay (Tami Sagher), whose parents own an Upper West Side apartment, is envied by the others for her financial security. Allison (Kate Micucci) is a cartoonist who hopes to form a writing team with Bill. Birbiglia plays Miles who teaches improv, and is the founding father of the Commune. When Liz (Maggie Kemper), a high school classmate, visits, they start a relationship despite his “college dorm room” way of life, which she finds distressing. Miles begs the Commune’s departing member, Jack, to recommend him as a cast member for “Weekend Live,” whose suave, imperious head writer, Timothy (Seth Barrish), is allergic to cast members promoting their friends.

As one person in the movie puts it, “Your 20s are all about hope, and your 30s are all about how dumb it is to hope.”

"An unusually soulful stand-up, Birbiglia is obviously intimate with the anger that festers in comedy clubs when people like him or Louis C.K. or Jim Gaffigan become stars. (Listen to Marc Maron’s podcast for regular explorations of that anger.) You don’t see many movies — which generally center on winners — about the hell of being left behind. But it suffuses Don’t Think Twice. Now you see the characters (the others are played by Chris Gethard, Kate Micucci of Garfunkel and Oates, and writer Tami Sagher) onstage, rushing in to get one another’s back, conjuring miracles out of thin air, achieving a fleeting but magical communion. And then you see them backstage, crushed — afraid of poverty, afraid of failure in front of their parents, afraid of nonexistence. And there’s something else: After many years, they’re finally being evicted from their theater.

With his glancing touch, Birbiglia gives the movie a ’70s vibe — I thought of Paul Mazursky, especially Next Stop, Greenwich Village.The cast is flawless. Key captures the ambivalence of an obvious star for whom stardom is both a lure and a source of shame. Gethard is the smart but increasingly morose boy-man in a spiral of failure. Jacobs anchors the film as a damaged woman who doesn’t want to move to the next level, who likes the scale of her life just fine. Outside the confines of the Commune is the film’s most bloodcurdling character: a Lorne Michaels stand-in (called “Timothy”), played by Seth Barrish with a frigid, judgmental vibe that would strangle an improvisation in its cradle." (Vulture)

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"But for all the quips, satire, and comedic talent jockeying for attention, it’s Jacobs as Sam who gives the film its beating heart. As she proved very recently in the Netflix series Love, Jacobs is an enormously talented and vulnerable screen presence. In Sam we get a lovely exploration of both the impostor syndrome that often plagues women in competitive environments as well as the bittersweet reconciliation of chasing what truly makes you happy rather than chasing some proscribed metric of success. Jacobs and Micucci were the only members of the cast who didn’t have extensive improv experience, but you wouldn’t know it. Anyone who has paid five bucks to crowd into a sweaty black-box theater in order to watch a night of improv will recognize the adrenaline rush of the Commune’s joyous live shows.

But ultimately it doesn’t matter if you’ve never seen an improv show or don’t follow the backstage politics of S.N.L.; Don’t Think Twice’s themes are immediately relatable. We’ve all masked professional jealousy with supportive smiles, faced the inevitable encroachment of adulthood, and—whether in school or in life—had to say good-bye to a group that once felt like family. Birbiglia has built his comedy brand on telling stories about himself, but in embracing improv’s valuing the group over any individual, he’s spun his most compelling yarn yet." (Vanity Fair)

Check out the trailer below.

Tags:   news, comedy, film news, Don't Think Twice, impro

Related:   Community, Billions, Don't Think Twice


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