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Tribeca Festival Review: ‘Group Therapy’ Sees Comedians Finding Catharsis in Discussing Mental Health

Group Therapy

Therapy is a safe space. So, most people aren’t sharing what they discuss in a session with the world. However, in doing just that with comedians in Group Therapy, the documentary has a very keen hook. Playing at the 2024 Tribeca Festival, the film looks at what makes comics tick in a unique manner. Namely, it’s the comedians themselves who are asking and answering the questions of each other.

Group Therapy has you seated for a discussion that you’d otherwise never be privy to. Not every doc can boast that, so the movie has that really in its favor. Comedy fans, as well as those who feel strongly about the issue of mental health will get the most out of this flick, but everyone can find something to grab on to. It’s a small scale winner, at least to me.

Group Therapy

The documentary is, at its core, a group therapy session, one led by Neil Patrick Harris. He’s essentially moderating a discussion with comedians Mike Birbiglia, Nicole Byer, Gary Gulman, London Hughes, Tig Notaro, and Atsuko Okatsuka. What follows is a look at mental health challenges, comedy, and how the two have intersected in all of their lives. Highs, lows, the in between, all are on the table.

Each comedian gets a chance to talk about their backstories, as well as the issues they face, while we see some of their best work on screen as well. There’s also a back and forth between them all, as they find relatable moments permeating all of their formative moments. If it sounds simply, well, it is, but it’s equally entertaining and illuminating.

Group Therapy

Watching this group is obviously fascinating and the highlight of Group Therapy. Mike Birbiglia, Nicole Byer, Gary Gulman, London Hughes, Tig Notaro, and Atsuko Okatsuka all grew up with differences and similarities, but hearing how they’ve faced their challenges could even be inspiring. They’re obviously all very funny as well, which keeps things from ever being too heavy. Neil Patrick Harris feels a little out of place, but having a moderator of sorts isn’t a terrible idea. You just don’t necessarily need it here.

Filmmaker Neil Berkeley has explored comedy before, so this is a topic he’s heavily invested in. Aside from the somewhat odd inclusion of Harris, Berkeley is pushing the right buttons here with Group Therapy. By letting the comics take the lead, you get moments and topics discussed that you wouldn’t if it were just an interview or talking head situation. The inclusive environment allows for a welcome discourse.

Group Therapy isn’t the kind of documentary that reinvents the wheel. However, it is the sort of doc that fans of comedy should get a lot out of. Beyond even listening to potentially one of your favorite comics, getting to hear and see them discuss private issues is fairly illuminating. Who knows, it may even be the kind of Tribeca title that ends up doing some good in the world? If so, that will certainly be an added bonus.

SCORE: ★★★

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