September 10, 2016

'Don't Think Twice' ... tragedy of comedy

Welcome to a contemporary version of the Greek masks of comedy and tragedy. ‘Don’t Think Twice’ is a behind-the-scenes look at comedic actors. It is an exploration into human competition and the sheer chance of success.

This dramatic comedy has the feel of a documentary. Maybe that’s the influence of producer Ira Glass whose public radio show, “This American Life,” has an “audio verite” feel to it (as in cinema verite).

This is the story of an improv troupe who all seem to hope they’ll one day be on “Weekend Live,” a not so well cloaked homage to “Saturday Night Live.” When one of ensemble gets hired at the network show we see humanity in all its rawest forms. Anger, jealousy, grief, and depression are all coming out among the members.

This film is a look into the tragic side of comedy players. The self-doubt, depression and low self-esteem, and in one case, simple self-understanding, are all played well by several in the ensemble. The film gives us a glimpse of a side we sometimes hear about but rarely see. Mike Birbiglia wrote and directed this film. He explores the many aspects of the comedian in this film.

For the audience, laughs are tempered with empathy. The life decisions made by the individuals in the troupe are gripping realities that ring true in our own lives. In retrospect, some life decisions made don’t turn out so well and, as we watch this film, we find ourselves hoping that one or another in the troupe would make different decisions. Fame and prestige make way for re-ordering of priorities. The friendship among troupe members has the possibility to overshadow the vain demon of jealousy.

We are reminded of those words from the opening of the Book of Ecclesiastes: “Vanity of vanities…all is vanity.”

“It’s all very well to tell us to forgive our enemies; our enemies can never hurt us very much. But oh, what about forgiving our friends?”- Willa Cather

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