The first screening of Don’t Think Twice is just one of many premiere events the Circle Cinema has held and was accompanied by an improv performance from Tulsa’s Comedy Parlor.
The troupe took front stage a short time before the show and performed a few improv “games”, providing a point of reference for individuals less familiar with the format, as well as justification for early popcorn indulgence.
Don’t Think Twice is a film which follows an improv group in its final stages of existence. The characters are all part of an improv troupe named “The Commune” which has performed for a number of years. The theatre they perform in is considered to be a recruitment ground for Weekend Live, the movie’s version of Saturday Night Live. As the characters learn the theatre is being shut down, the group begins to crumble as they make their (possibly final) grasp for success.
The characters of Don’t Think Twice are wonderfully flawed, and it is the realistic dynamics of their relationship that elevates the movie from an abstract comedy to an engaging and very believable story. Jack, the most protagonistic of the six troupe members, is recruited for Weekend Live and it is in his grappling with the new distance between him and his former group that we see much of the story unfold. This brings strain on his relationship with Samantha, his girlfriend and fellow improv actor, and her struggle with the distance between Jack and the rest of the group provides a counterpoint to the story of Jack’s newfound success.
Comedy in Don’t Think Twice is an effective combination of the wacky looseness improv provides and the comfortable hilarity of comedians who are close knit. It is also a true-to-source-material comedy, which utilizes the concepts of improv (like the concept of “yes, and…”) as a flow device; characters that do not obey the concepts of improv are very obviously at odds with the intent of the scene. In a similar vein, there is also an acknowledgement of the cringey, uncomfortable moments that go hand in hand with both good and bad improv comedy. This awkwardness is not generally meant as a comedic schadenfreude a la Will Ferrell movies, but the honestly mortifying and discomforting moments that happen in real life.
It is in these parallels to real life that Don’t Think Twice shines. Had there been a tagline for the movie that said “based on a true story” I would have fully believed it. The fictitious nature of the story matters little to its narrative integrity because of how well it reflects reality. The movie is less about an improv comedy troupe groping for success as it is an ode to the transitional uncertainty that pulls a well knit group apart.
In a scene where part of the troupe is going through old stage materials, Chris Gethard’s character states “Your twenties are all about hope, and then your thirties are all about realizing how dumb it was to hope.” This sentiment, paired with the cruelly realistic premise of the movie hits hard, and I could not help but be uncomfortably familiar with the feeling. Don’t Think Twice ends on a happy note, but it is not so much a cheering victory than simply a grateful mark of survival. But if the movie conveys no greater message, it is that it’s alright to just try and survive. Don’t Think Twice is well worth the price of admission for any who want an entertaining time “getting punched in the feels.”