In the world of improvisational comedy, the rule is always say yes: Yes, I see that imaginary dog you’re walking—is he housebroken? Yes, he is—but he has a really bad attitude about nonorganic produce. And so on.
Fittingly, the upbeat, loose-limbed characters of writer-director Mike Birbiglia’s NYC-set drama always seem to get into trouble when they say yes. Yes, pushing-forty Miles (Birbiglia) will let himself get distracted with a string of younger sexual conquests while his career stalls. Yes, Jack (Key & Peele’s Keegan-Michael Key) will showboat over his troupe’s group efforts when there’s a TV talent scout in the crowd. It works and he leaps at the job, but his ascent is hard for everyone to take, especially his skit-partner girlfriend, Sam (Gillian Jacobs).
After 2012’s similarly themed Sleepwalk with Me, Birbiglia continues to mine a scene he knows well, and even though he doesn’t strike you as a natural-born filmmaker (some of these scenes are as flatly lensed as the Saturday Night Live sketches being spoofed), he’s evolving as a confrontational dramatist. The détente at the plot’s end feels like an updated Big Chill: friends drifting apart, selling out, holding on.
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf