Comedy, love, documentary — take your pick in film this week


Three engrossing new films will come to Vineyard theatres this weekend. “Don’t Think Twice” follows the ups and downs of a New York City improvisation group, and plays at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center. Also at the Film Center, “Newtown” is a powerful and haunting documentary about the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Sweet and thoughtful, “Southside with You” dramatizes the first date of Barack Obama and his future wife Michelle Robinson. It plays at Entertainment Cinemas and the Strand and Capawock theatres.

‘Don’t Think Twice’

In “Don’t Think Twice,” one of six comic actors in the improvisational troupe Commune gets a big break when he is cast on a “Saturday Night Live” type of TV show called “Weekend Live.” His success causes dissension among the others, especially the group’s leader, Miles.

The fun of the film comes in watching the actors play at improv. Keegan-Michael Key, Gillian Jacobs, Kate Micucci, Tami Sagler, Chris Gethard, and the film’s director, Mike Birbiglia, come alive as individuals by talking about what improv means. “It’s about impulse, living in the moment,” one says, and, “In improv there are no mistakes.” “Don’t Think Twice” radiates appealing warmth as it explores improv and the actors who perform it.


“Newtown” is a compelling documentary about the horrific slaughter of 20 children and six educators at a Connecticut school on Dec. 14, 2012. It was the deadliest mass shooting of schoolchildren in American history, and a day seared in our memories. While the subject is heartrending and may often bring tears to viewers’ eyes, it tells a story that all of us should learn more about. The film covers the failure of the Senate to pass a law tightening the check on gun permits, and the success of a stiff new gun-control ordinance enacted by the state of Connecticut.

After a look at a Newtown parade, the documentary opens with scenes of law enforcement responding to the incident, in which a disturbed young man killed himself after taking so many lives. Then, “Newtown” interviews many of those who were involved. As Connecticut State Trooper Sergeant Bill Cario says, “I think the world needs to understand it.” That important comment should guide viewers to this film, rather than letting them take the easy route and avoid it because of its grim subject. Producer Maria Cuomo Cole and director Kim Snyder will lead a post-screening Q&A session.

‘Southside with You’

Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson met in 1989 as Chicago law firm associates, and “Southside with You,” directed by Richard Tanne, is the fictionalized version of that meeting. The film premiered at Sundance. Obama (Parker Sawyers), a Harvard law student, was working as a summer intern, and Robinson (Tika Sumpter), a law firm associate, served as his supervisor. The tall and pretty young lawyer caught the future president’s eye early on, but Robinson resisted his advances, convinced it was inappropriate to date a workplace colleague. Nevertheless, they spend a day together on the pretext of attending a community meeting in Chicago’s predominantly black South Side. As the intern quietly pursues her, Robinson remains determined not to succumb. For starters, she raises an eyebrow at his cigarette smoking and his clunker of a car with a rusted hole in the floor.

“Southside with You” does not come across simply as a romantic tale about the President’s and First Lady’s love — it explores the depth of their intellectual exchanges. They discuss their family backgrounds, with Obama displaying resentment of his Kenyan father and Robinson talking about the closeness of her family, as well as their future ambitions. Before the organizing meeting they are scheduled to attend, Obama takes his future intended to an exhibit of the late Ernie Barnes and other African-American artists at a fictionalized Chicago Art Institute. During the Gardens district meeting in Southside, residents express their frustration with the city’s refusal to OK a much-needed community center. Obama gives a rousing and hopeful speech. Later, the two attend a screening of Spike Lee’s classic film “Do the Right Thing.” Sawyers and Sumpter portray these iconic figures quite believably, and “Southside with You” serves up an effectively fictionalized and charming bit of presidential history.

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