Sleepwalk with Me arrived in Austin theaters on August 31st and remains with a theatrical release at the Violet Crown Cinema this week. Making his directorial debut, Mike Birbiglia [This American Life monologues] stars at Matt Pandamiglio, a struggling stand up comedian who has a long term girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and starts to sleepwalk shortly after they move in together.
While I found some of the scenes to be humorous, it was not laugh out loud funny. It was really sad to see someone who is has sleepwalking issues and the difficulties, not to mention danger, they are in or can cause.
REM sleep behavior disorder is what Birbiglia suffers from. Tucker Peck, a clinical sleep technician, explains “unlike regular sleepwalking, in RBD a person is interacting with their dream environment and not the real world, so they actually do things like run through windows.” Showing a dreamscape that occurs with real objects in a real place, Birbiglia believed, would be something unique when brought to life in film.
In 2009, Birbiglia invited Ira Glass to help him adapt Sleepwalk With Me for the big screen. “There are lots of great radio stories that don’t lay out well into a three act film structure,” Glass points out, “but Sleepwalkwas perfect, with this great personal story that anyone can relate to, building to a literally smashing climax.” The pair collaborated on the screenplay with Seth Barrish, who had directed the one-man show by the same name, and with Birbiglia’s brother Joe, who had been contributing jokes to Mike’s act practically since its start.
The film chronicles the end of a relationship, but what happens seems for the best for both Matt and Abby. Ambrose does well with her comedic and dramatic work in the film. Taxi and Annie Hall star Carol Kane was brought on board to play Matt’s mother, which Birbiglia describes as a “dream come true,” and James Rebhorn took the role of his no-nonsense physician dad. All three actors provide good supporting roles and lend credibility to the production.
2012 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL
2012 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST
2012 INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL OF BOSTON
2012 SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 PROVINCETOWN INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
2012 JUST FOR LAUGHS FILM FESTIVAL
2012 BAM CINEMA FEST
2012 NANTUCKET FILM FESTIVAL
90 MIN / U.S.A. / COLOR / 2012 / ENGLISH
Available on VOD now. Here is the synopsis:
“I’m going to tell you a story and it’s true… I always have to tell people that,” so asserts comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia directly to the viewer at the outset of his autobiographically inspired, fictional feature debut. Birbiglia wears his incisive wit on his sleeve while portraying a cinematic surrogate. We are thrust into the tale of a burgeoning stand-up comedian struggling with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship threatening to race out of his control, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore.
Based on the successful one-man show, Sleepwalk with Me engages in the kind of passionate and personal storytelling that transfigures intimate anguish into comic art. Produced and co-written by Ira Glass (NPR’s “This American Life”), Sleepwalk with Me features a stellar supporting cast that includes Lauren Ambrose (“Six Feet Under”), Carol Kane (Taxi), James Rebhorn (Meet the Parents), Cristin Milioti (“30 Rock”), and a sampling from the who’s who of today’s stand-up scene.
Bursting with sincerity, Mike Birbiglia’s foray into the medium marks the invigorating emergence of a strong and poignant American voice, at once hilarious and heartbreaking.