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A brief review of "Don't Think Twice" (2016)

I was hoping to give this movie a more full-fledged review with detailed notes and praise, but I'm working through some kind of sickness this week and need to keep it short.  So, here's the deal.

Don't Think Twice snuck onto Netflix a couple weeks ago with little fanfare. I think that's a shame, because it's one of the best movies they've acquired the rights to recently.

I'd like to say that the themes it covers are pretty universal, but that may be a lie; the subject matter is probably best appreciated by folks in creative fields.  Even so, the underlying matter is one of dreams.  More specifically: is it actually possible to achieve them?

That's a question all generations have struggled with to some extent, but certainly Millennials in particular.  The combination of shrinking job markets, high college costs, and general shitty attitudes toward pretty much everything we do means we're facing significant practical challenges. Worse: although technology has sort of "leveled the playing field" by giving us easier access to venues to distribute our work - Youtube, Kindle publishing, etc. - the glut of voices dying to be heard has made competition worse than ever.

In Don't Think Twice, the specific dream the six protagonists are chasing is one of comic stardom.  They're all performers in an improv troupe that hope to be on Weekend Live, the movie's stand-in for Saturday Night Live.  The breakthrough doesn't seem quite that far-fetched - they have friends and acquaintances who've done it, and they know that Weekend Live scouts occasionally watch their shows.  Yet the final push to get through never seems to happen.

And then it does, and suddenly the troupe can't function.  The success of one member necessarily means that feelings of jealousy and the power / influence differential between them make it harder and harder to play jokes off each other, until eventually they dissolve completely.

That kind of movie sounds like it would be miserably depressing.  But it's not.  It's just honest.

The great thing about Don't Think Twice is that it doesn't dip so far into "this shit is hard" territory that it alienates the process of trying.  The thing it reaffirms more than anything else is that contentment comes from the creative act itself, not the success that may or may not come along with it.  Although everybody has a rough patch, nobody just gives up on their dream - they simply adjust and find a way to keep making it work for them.

That's the most honest and life-affirming thing anybody can ever tell you.  Those who promise success are liars or con artists, those who say you're doomed to fail are just bitter.  Don't Think Twice shoots for that nice middle ground where you have to deal with disappointment, but you'll still be rewarded as long as you have the right expectations.

This is a strong recommendation for anybody who's interested in a creative pursuit, particularly if you're of the woe and misery camp.  Excellent performances from the entire cast plus a great sense of empathy and pacing make this one of the best comedy-dramas out there.

My Rating: 5 / 5