By Collin Lotter | @clotter64
Don’t Think Twice is the new film from acclaimed writer/director Mike Birbiglia that tells the story of an improv troupe struggling with the instant success of one its key members. Walking into this movie I fully expected more of a feel-good flick where dreams are realized and goals are attained, but as I sat through the first half of the film it was clear that this was not going to be the case. On the contrary, this movie in some ways spoke very powerfully to me yet in a seemingly negative light, which is not always easy to sit through. There are numerous laughs and the improv scenes are light-hearted in nature, however, the failed ambitions along with the impending struggles with the cutthroat business that is comedy television makes Don’t Think Twice a sobering tale about life and hope. This movie really asks the question; when do we give up on our dreams in our twenties and thirties?
“Your twenties is all about hope and your thirties is realizing how dumb it was to hope.” This quote really stayed with me once it was proclaimed in the movie because it’s an important question that any goal-oriented or dare to dream person struggles with. We live with this idea to pursue our dreams, never say never, endeavor to persevere and never give up. Although, we all at some point in life have that come to Jesus moment where we ask ourselves or people around us say, “you've got to be real about this and consider the sacrifice and ramifications.” It’s depressing, but so apparent in this movie, especially with Birbiglia’s character who is a 36-year-old comedy teacher as well as a semi-failed performer who has watched former students’ star rise as he waits for his moment. He meets a romantic interest and has to tussle with the idea of giving up on his dream to pursue settling down and embracing parenthood.
Unique from Birbiglia’s directorial debut, Sleepwalk with Me, his character in this movie has maddening insecurities that force him to always try to navigate the group to his benefit as he sees the hourglass running out of time for his career to take the next big step. The members of the improv troupe all have their own ideas of success in comedy and even though they all want to take the next step into superstardom together, individualism takes over as the movie plays out.
Walking into Don’t Think Twice I had pigeonholed the movie as a performance movie with some laughs, maybe a few fights and then a final performance to give the audience some good vibes leaving the theater. However, this movie plays completely differently to the first-time observer and is filled with lots of pondering questions and principles about life. Birbiglia focuses the film around the idea of art being socialism but life is capitalism. The romantic couple within the group, played by Gillian Jacobs and Keegan-Michael Key, really scrap with this mantra as one wants to not “sell out” and stay in the small intimate venue that they all started out with while the other wants to grab the brass ring and go for the ultimate comedy vehicle which is a Saturday Night Live-style show.
You can really sense how fickle and two-sided pursuing a career in entertainment can be. It almost seems impossible to make true friends who have your best interest in mind with such limited spots for the chosen few and the immense talent that all personas bring to the table. This movie also explores the notion that sometimes talent alone will not promise anything. Just like in life, people get lucky and catch breaks with timing, hidden opportunities, or fortuitous relationships. Keegan-Michael Key’s character knows he caught a few breaks to achieve his success and really struggles because as he looks out for himself he fully understands the relationships he may be sacrificing.
Don’t Think Twice is a powerful vehicle that brings on a lot of self-reflection, as one does not have to foster comedic ambitions to relate. Mike Birbiglia in a lot of ways portrays the everyday man who is trying to strive for a wonderful life with all dreams realized along with keeping a balanced middle ground. The film forces the audience to ponder a question a lot of us deal with and, for the most observational ones out there, continually battle with; when is the deadline that we have to give up or grow up?