Monday, September 5, 2016
Movie Monday: Don't Think Twice
Anybody over the age of 20 can remember the disappointment of not getting a much hoped-for job.
This is not fun in real life, but it's a laugh riot in this small movie that deserves more attention than it has received.
The genius of this production is its framing within a comedy improvisation troupe whose members have lived and worked together for 11 years. Existential crises arise when one of the players leaves to join the cast of a Saturday Night Live-type show and the group loses the lease on its New York performance space.
Effectively the troupe is a family, but a really funny family. We see how its players have trained to play off each other and keep the humor going in front of audiences. We also see how they revert to humor in awkward moments -- after a funeral, say -- when a painful nerve is exposed and is cauterized quickly by an equally awkward but hilarious series of riffs.
In general, comedy is harder to carry off than drama. "Funny but true" is an even more difficult juggling act, but "Don't Think Twice" accomplishes it, seemingly with ease. As the credits role, a piano rendition of the Bob Dylan song plays and you realize, in a bittersweet way, why the film critic for The Atlantic called it "one of the best comedies of the year."
So why isn't this movie in more theaters? All summer long, every publication from Variety to the New York Times has lamented the lousy quality of endless sequels and the many expensive films that have turned out to be stinkers at the box office.
True, the movie isn't for children because its themes resonate best with people who've had a job or two. It also lacks gratuitous nudity, foul language and gunshots. There isn't a single stabbing. Is this a problem now?
On the plus side, I would think the potential audience is large. There are comedy clubs and improv groups all over the country. There are more than 50 college film programs turning out people who have experience making documentaries and small movies and who are interested in seeing more.
Obviously the production was not expensive, but expensive didn't make "Suicide Squad" any better. And seven weeks in, "Don't Think Twice" still is selling a respectable number of tickets in the small number of theaters where it can be found. The word of mouth has to be good.
Given all this, why wouldn't a film distributor try to make a movie like this one available more broadly?