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Sleepwalk with Me

By SAUNDRA SORENSON

In what can unofficially be considered This American Life's first feature film, Ira Glass co-writes a full-length dramatization of Mike Birbiglia’s popular stand-up routine about chronic sleepwalking and brushes with death—and it holds up in translation. As comedian autobiographies go, it’s among the more humane. The conflict is almost a cliché: As “Matt Pandamiglio,” Birbiglia is ambivalent about marrying longtime girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose), partly due to the fact his comedy career has stalled. But the dream sequences do far more than communicate his agonized state of mind—they spill into his waking life as Matt’s rapid-eye-movement behavior disorder makes him act out night terrors, which ultimately lead to his leap from a closed second-story window at a La Quinta Inn (yes, Birbiglia really did that). Birbiglia’s narrative pretense—that he is a road comic speaking to a camera riding shotgun as he drives between gigs in the present day—allows him to include some of the delivery that made “Sleepwalk” land as a live performance. This also preserves some of Sleepwalk’s bite as it moves from stage to screen and Birbiglia becomes a hapless in player in his own surreal story. In hindsight, it is possible to look back and laugh.

 

Special Note

Cinema 21.
 
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  • Release Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2012
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