Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Don’t Think Twice (2016)

Don’t Think Twice (2016)
Written and directed by Mike Birbiglia

This is a sad movie about people who live in a dystopia where they cannot connect and respect one another because they are all seeking the attention of the big time with its fame, riches, and relatively mediocre but flashy electronic products. And it’s not a documentary.
There are a solid reliable number of showbiz products that are self referential.  Naturally, that is the world the people who make them have to succeed in to qualify for the production we are viewing. After laboring in showbiz for 10 years I suppose it kind of becomes what life is all about, especially when much of mass media is focused of fame and celebrity in showbiz. So Mike Birbiglia, having labored in showbiz for some years gets to write direct and act in a movie, he’s a winner in the game.

This movie is set in the world of an improv theater company. Having never been in such a troupe I cannot verify the authenticity of detail. I partly saw it as a workplace story.
There is this improv group called The Commune. They are all around 30-40 years old. The Commune is apparently successful because they are putting on shows regularly in a theater somewhere in NYC and people are showing up and laughing even though their stuff is not so, laugh out loud, funny.  But people always laugh at stuff too enthusiastically in movies. Anyway, they all seem clothed and housed adequately, but there is a lure from above, or below, that disrupts their solidarity. There is big media out there hovering above and threatening to elevate or crush depending on its wim and presumed stockholder profit needs. There is a TV network with a show like SNL. Weekend Live is not so great but it is there, an institution and the big time path to stardom, movies, talk show hosting, whatever jewels The Bigtime has to offer.
At the outset of the movie there is a buzz in the theater because a producer or some such from Weekend Live, the SNL- like show is coming to a performance.  A guy from The Commune ends up getting cast on Weekend Live. His old comrades are happy for him sort of but sad for themselves.
There is some indication that the actual work of The Commune is better than that of the TV show.  

There are a few possible lessons from the movie. Don't leave The Commune. The communards will hate and envy you for your exalted betrayal. There is the reward money, but that might not be worth much when you can do nothing for your former friends, useless in getting them even a writing job on the show or anything.  

I don't know if it was the intention of the filmmaker but the thing clearly shows a sad economic set up where no one wins. Certainly not the winners. But since this comes from the pov of a winner it might suggest that the little people, happy to work away in obscurity, are the only ones who come close to winning because at least they have one another. The do- gooder powerful are always blessing us meek. Easy for the winners to say, like the Beetles, “But oh that magic feeling nowhere to go.” But maybe it's true, maybe it is easier to be spiritual and connected to people without all that money to worry about and possessions to tend to. Not to mention defending oneself from the needy, even needy friends who unfortunately need to be left behind because the situation becomes too involved and painful for rich and poor alike that they are better done with one another altogether. The winner is useless and impotent. The woman in the troupe who he loves shuns him and the big time show.  She is happy to labor on with The Commune and work that she finds meaningful. He’s like, “What!?! You had an audition for Weekend Tonight and didn't show up!?!?’”
All this is wrapped up in an acceptable level of dramatic interest, given its existential absurdity. It moves along ok.  Not boring.   
None of the cast was particularly interesting to me. The writer director gives himself a looking for love role in a side story that is not that compelling. Kate Micucci is in the movie. She is funny in other stuff, but hardly used here for much of anything at all. But the movie does bring up the issue of the lure of The Bigtime which is worth some exploration.

I wonder what the world of entertainment was really like 150 years ago before radio, movies, etc.
I have a notion it might have been able to support more entertainers in some way. Certainly there must have been more, out of the home amusements of one sort or another. Now everything is so centralized and in control of powerful media conglomerates. This is a strange and new development in human history.
The lure of The Bigtime is fascinating and seems to never give up in some people. One can be in their mid 60s and still fantasize that somehow the call up to The Bigtime is just around the corner, someone is bound to notice that The Bigtime needs me and wants me to be there to hang out with all the “stars” I identify with.
The power, and staying power, of this lure is impressive given that very few are actually called up into The Bigtime. But you too can be The American Idol.
On the other hand one could react to this by questioning putting any effort into the performing arts at all. It is kind of insane to try to compete with the most skilled and well connected performers in the country or world.
Those lost to The Bigtime lure might just give up altogether.

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