Sleepwalk With Me:: Don’t Mind If I Do!

I am an NPR nerd, and frankly, proud of it.  I love me some Fresh Air, Car Talk, Prairie Home Companion, and Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  But I really, really, REALLY love This American Life.  I am soothed by the playful voice of host, Ira Glass, who both asks the tough questions and laughs like a goofy little kid.  I have listened to hours of episodes while playing solitaire (the solitaire is to give the illusion that I am actually doing something rather than just listening to story after story).  One of my favorite episodes is called, “Fear of Sleep”.  In it, comedian Mike Birbiglia  tells a story about a sleepwalking disorder that he has called R.E.M. Behavior disorder which causes him to act out his dreams.  I’ve listened to this episode at least five times, one of which was next to my husband, with me constantly saying, “oh this next part is really funny”, which I do a lot and he hates.

When I heard that this story was being made into a movie, called Sleepwalk With Me, I was excited and concerned.  I was pretty sure that I would be disappointed as I usually am by adapted material (except with The Color Purple, that was spot on.)  Ira Glass produced the film and Mike Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in it.  Since the first time I heard the story, I have become a screenwriter and a film festival movie screener.  I know how hard it is to make a movie work, especially when it’s your first.  So many tiny things can go wrong; the casting could be wrong, the music not quite right, the pacing too slow, or about 9,000 other things.  But Mike and Ira are smart guys and even though this isn’t their first rodeo, it’s kinda their first rodeo.

I was pleasantly surprised.  The parts that I thought wouldn’t translate to film, didn’t, so they modified how they told that part of the story.  They had Mike narrate, so it had the same storytelling feel of the original piece.  They added in the back story and what was happening in Mike’s life during that time in greater detail.  He had just moved in with his long time girlfriend and his comedy career was having a hard time getting off the ground.  In the movie his sleep disorder starting happening when the pressure to marry his girlfriend is intensified by his younger sister’s engagement.

In the movie, Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) works in a comedy club as a bartender who occasionally gets to do five minutes of material, and bombs.  His girlfriend is played brilliantly by Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under), who has just the right amount of sweetness and sadness to convey the unspoken state of their relationship.  Matt’s mother is played by Carol Kane (The Princess Bride), who always has “one more thing”, which is never worth pointing out; “One more thing, I got the cake on the internet!”  Matt’s dad is played by James Rebhorn (aka “Beth’s Dad” from Guiding Light, as my husband always calls him).  Throughout the movie, he is always angry and always funny.

It was well paced, the right length, funny, touching and perfect.  I loved it.  In fact I laughed so hard, I think I need to see it again because I’m sure I missed something.  I couldn’t be happier for Mike and Ira, they really hit this one out of the park.


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