Welcome to the first ever Matinee Monday-Throwback Thursday! The Throwback Thursday piece will change from post to post, and will typically cover either something particularly cool related to the release of a film, an older film that I am seeing for the first time, or one that has made a return to theaters for night, or longer. In honor of it being one of my favorite films of 2016, and to coincide with its Blu-ray release, and critics choice award nomination, I have decided that the first Throwback Thursday article with be for the film Don’t Think Twice.
Don’t Think Twice tells the story of an improv troupe that is confronted with their theater closing down, just as one of its members is cast in the film’s version of Saturday Night Live. The film boasts an impressive case, headlined by Keegan Michael Key(Key and Peele) as Jack, Gillian Jacobs(Community) as Sam, and triple threat Mike Birbiglia, who also wrote and directed the film, as a sophomore follow-up to his impressive Sleepwalk With Me, as Miles, the group leader, and longest active member. I have long been a fan of Birbiglia, since his early days as a stand-up comedian, and have always been impressed with his storytelling ability, something that shines through in this movie. I remember when Sleepwalk with Me came out a few years ago, the film did not play in any of the local theaters that normally screen independent films in my area, I instead had to see it in a small screening room, inside of a local art studio, and only had a small window of time to catch it. Dont Think Twice however, was intially released back in July for a weekend run in New York City, that included a marathon of screenings and Q&As with cast members, and Birbiglia himself. Given that widespread distribution was not guaranteed, for a film I did not want to miss, I decided one Saturday afternoon to take the train to NYC, for a chance to see it. I had planned it out last minute, I knew the one screening that included a Q&A that was not sold out, and what the last train possible was for me to make it to the city on time. I made it to New York with exactly enough time to take an uber to the Sunshine theater, a wonderful old theater in the East Village, and purchased my ticket.
Some photos from the screening I attended this past July
The film itself was fantastic, the story is engaging, heartfelt, and as expected with a movie written by a comedian, wonderfully funny. Each character that Birbiglia created is fully formed, and while they don’t all get the same amount of story time, it is easy to understand what each of them is going through. All of them are flawed human beings, but their group dynamic brings out the best in all of them. When they perform together as The Commune, the films improv group, they are best version of themselves, which makes it so heartbreaking when the group dissolves in light of Jack finding success. This forces each member to face their own failures, and to eventually grow as people. The cast works so well together, which makes the improv setting of the film that much better, as the group scenes are a really joy to watch. The way in which the actual improv scenes are shot is also incredibly well done, as the placement of the camera, gives the audience the real feel as if they are sitting in the audience at the improv show. The individual conversations, and the overall group dynamic comes through in each scene, and makes the more tense scenes harder to watch, because you feel the familial connection that these people have to one another. This is especially felt with the relationship between Jack and Sam, the latter of which has to deal with Jack’s new status the most, as she is the closest to him. Without spoiling aspects of the story, there a scene between Keegan and Gillian, that feels so real because of the story that had been told, that there were several teary eyes in the screening I saw. I applaud Birbiglia, who created something truly remarkable, and I spent the weeks after initially seeing the movie, not just telling people to go see it, but also seeing again myself. It is a movie that stayed with me, as the good ones tend to do, and with the recent release digitally, and this week on Blu-ray, I found myself revisiting it again, and it is still just as good.
Photos from the Q&A
After the screening, as the audience collected themselves, and wiped the tears from their faces, we were all treated to what I assume most had come to see, which was the Q&A. I recall something in the range of 40 Q&As were done throughout the weekend, a service for Birbiglia’s fans, who were all also tasked to serve as the main source of PR for the film, something most in the audience were happy to do. While understandably brief, the questions and answer portion of the afternoon was wonderful, as Birbiglia was joined by Ira Glass of This American Life, a producer on the film, Tami Sagher, who played Lindsay in the movie, and also as an added surprise, Judd Apatow, who we were told was just a friend who had nothing better to do on a Saturday afternoon, and served as de facto moderator. Birbiglia thanked everyone for coming out, and explained sort of the history of the movie, and how it came to be. He told stories of the cast, and filming, which featured funny moments and interactions. He told a story about how one particularly subplot of the film, was crafted and put in solely so he could incorporate the joke of the characters saying “thank you” in a long drawn out way, which made the whole thing much funnier, because of the arbitrary nature in which the subplot was conceived. While it would have been amazing to have had a longer Q&A the rapid fire pace that they were taking place across the theater, meant that we could only have short time. I could honestly listen to Birbiglia talk for hours about his creative process, and to see him engage with his fans was something I will not forget.
I could not have been more thrilled with the day that I spent with Don’t Think Twice, I got to see and experience a truly wonderful film, one that earned its accolades, and one that I hope with garner more attention in the upcoming award season. Films mean different things to different people, and I saw this at a time when I was dealing with questions of where I was in my own life, so this will hold a special place for me personally. I am so happy to have seen the success that film had throughout the summer, as more and more theaters were able to show the film to so many more people. If you haven’t done so by now, please see Don’t Think Twice, it is one of my favorite movies, and will certainly finds its place on the best of list for 2016 for many, including myself.