Oh John Carroll

Tag: sleepwalk with me

Why Matt? →

If you read my post about Sleepwalk With Me, you’ll recall that I was bugged by the ramifications of Mike Birbiglia’s name change.  Julie Klausner asked him about this on her podcast “How Was Your Week?”  If you want to hear him answer, skip ahead to the 55-minute mark.

A Movie Review by Don Farrell

I saw Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me this week.  I’m sure many of you are familiar with some or all of the stories in this film, as Birbiglia has had a lot of success with them, most notably on This American Life.  In fact, Ira Glass is a co-producer of the film, which was made in coordination with the show.

I was struck by the opening of the film for how direct it was: Birbiglia is driving his car and talking to someone.  It could, conceivably, be a character in the passenger seat, but I assumed it was me — literally, as I was the only person in the theater for an afternoon showing of the film.  But once Birbiglia started to face the camera and talk directly to me, there was no doubt about it.  While this type of wall-breaking isn’t revolutionary, it feels that way, if only for how warm and welcoming Birbiglia is as a storyteller.

But this seeming honesty gave way to a curious, and at times maddening, choice: many details here are barely fictionalized.  The viewer soon finds out that the person addressing us in the car is not Mike Birbiglia, but Matt Pandamiglio.  Some name, huh?  Matt/Mike later works a show with a comedian named Marc Mulheren, played by comedian Marc Maron.

I was intrigued by these decisions because I assumed they were deliberate choices that would pay off at a later time in the film, given its focus on a character whose dreams realize themselves in his body.  But such payoff never comes.  And that disappointed and bothered me.  Don’t get me wrong: Sleepwalk With Me is funny and smart.  If you have the chance to see it, you should.  You won’t regret it.

But a film about the blurred lines between dreams and reality seemingly had no interest in exploring the blurring going on within its own construction: this is a film that’s based on a book that’s based on stand-up that’s based on the creator’s life story.

And so this seemingly innocent choice to anonymize the names for the sake of fictionalizing the story contradicts some of the story’s most frank and honest moments, like when Birbiglia reminds the audience that we’re on his side, right before we learn about something awful he did while on tour.

Birbiglia won’t be the first or last filmmaker to construct a film around a character addressing his audience, nor will he be the first or last to attempt to anonymize a true story.  But he did have a unique chance to do something unique with these devices, given their inclusion in a film concerned with an increasingly distorted reality.


When I used to write about film on a regular basis, I was always amused by one particular article format: The Most Anticipated Movie list.  This was a flexible topic that could always fill space with movie posters and speculation.  The Most Anticipated Movies of 2012.  The Most Anticipated DVDs of the Fall.  The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi Sequels Currently In Production.  And on and on.
What tickled me about these articles is the culture it produced.  Venture onto any Internet message board about film, or even in plain conversation with film buffs, and you will hear someone reference his or her “most anticipated movies list.”
I still laugh at the idea of a film fan seeing a particularly enticing movie trailer, going home, and then bumping Sleepwalk With Me from No. 10 to No. 3 on a list.
This is a long way of saying : I’ve always been fascinated by the ways we anticipate art.  And I’ve been thinking about it more often now that I have more decisions to make, but with fewer choices.  Living in Kansas has so far been about overcoming a lack of anticipation: we look at movie listings and try to talk ourselves into something
I embedded the trailer for Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master because I am eager to see it.  And when I watch this trailer, I finally have a way to communicate my anticipation in a way that doesn’t require me to list 9 other Fall films behind The Master.
I am ready to find see the nearest listing in Kansas City.  I am ready to drive there.  And I am ready to have no reservations about it.

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