Thursday, September 13, 2012

MOVIE REVIEW: Sleepwalk with Me (2012)

We are right to cringe when the movie, before it does anything else, breaks the fourth wall. At best we can hope for some intermittent, Zack Morris-level levity, perhaps perfected by John Cusak in High Fidelity, though George Carlin in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Ferris Bueller are also excellent examples. At worst we receive the type of out-of-place over-thinking that can completely kill a film (I'm thinking Funny Games but would welcome other examples). Either way, it's a high-wire tightrope act easily capable of stalling a movie's momentum for what too often amounts to nothing more than the fulfillment of the filmmaker's most masturbatory needs.

So I'm happy to report that, despite beginning the film in this fashion, the removal of wall #4 does not take away from one's enjoyment, as it is deployed sporadically and diplomatically. (That's not to say that it necessarily enhances it, either, although I did enjoy how he tells a "joke-joke" about answering your cellphone at the movies; that functions as a nice, subtle parallel to the story itself, which is in part about how writer-director Mike Birbiglia found success moving away from that type of humor to the more personal stuff, namely the off-Broadway, one-man show this film is based on and HOLY FUCK WE HAVE COME FULL CIRCLE.)

A portion of said one-man show was excerpted on the radio program This American Life, which I listened to a few years ago. So I was familiar with the basic plot, though it wasn't fresh in my mind. The film definitely has that labor-of-love feeling and because the material has been incubating for so long and via so many different platforms (there's also a book), the end result is the type of thoroughly developed, personal narrative that we rarely get to see. Now, one might say that many an indie flick are born of a similar labor-of-love, perhaps a majority of them. True, but I can't think of any projects that traveled the very peculiar path of: comedy routine > one-man show > radio monologue > essay book/memoir > narrative-driven fiction film. I think this is stuff is worth pointing out. I personally could never imagine focusing this much energy on a single creative project, which--oh by the way--just happens to be a close re-imagining of events from your actual life. This fear of self-discovery, I suppose, is one of the reasons I found the film so powerful. I don't want to look at any portion of my life this closely for five seconds, let alone for over five years. An interesting perspective is gained; one that's simultaneously as hyperreal as fiction can get, yet also as dramatically/thematically orchestrated as any true story wrung through this much iteration could ever possibly achieve.

SCORE: 8 out of 10

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