At one point in his new film “Sleepwalk With Me,” actor/writer/director Mike Birbiglia compares himself to 1980s teen starlet Molly Ringwald .
For a guy in his mid-thirties, this sounds like an odd analogy to make. But in the case of Birbiglia’s character, the down-on-his-luck aspiring comedian Matt Pandamiglio , it’s spot on.
“Sleepwalk With Me,” currently playing until Thursday at The State Theatre, is essentially a John Hughes coming-of-age story for people in this age range who continue to scoff at the idea of growing up. The film, which won the Best of NEXT Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, is based on Birbiglia’s 2010 memoir and one-man off-Broadway play of the same name .
Richard Biever, executive director of The State Theatre , said the film’s weeklong run was prompted as a result of a grassroots campaign taken by a number of students and other State College residents.
The campaign was instigated by “This American Life” radio host Ira Glass , the film’s producer, who has spent a sizeable amount of time endorsing the film on his program and urging listeners to contact their local theaters about showing it.
“I think a lot of students are familiar with Mike Birbiglia’s standup act,” Biever said, adding that the theater is the exclusive State College location for screenings of the film.
“The film is really a scripted version of a standup routine that he did. He seems to have a lot of college-age fans,” he said.
Matt is definitely not your run-of-the-mill protagonist. He’s a schlubby-looking man-child who, by some miracle, has managed to hold onto a girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose) , for the past eight years. Just don’t talk to him about marriage because, as he puts it, he won’t tie the knot until he’s sure that “nothing else good can happen in his life.”
As if the pressure from Abby wasn’t enough, he must also deal with the caustic orations of his overbearing father, Frank, (James Rebhorn), who spends the bulk of his screen time bickering with Matt’s free-spirited mother about trivialities that, not surprisingly, don’t exactly restore Matt’s faith in the concept of happily-ever-after.
However, it’s Matt’s newfound bouts with sleepwalking — inspired by Birbiglia’s real-life struggle with REM behavior disorder — that come out on top on his list of obstacles to overcome. It’s a subject of concern for those around him, but Matt decides to use it as fuel to turn his otherwise stagnant standup career into a burgeoning profession.
Vonn Weisenberger said he was surprised the movie was being shown in State College.
Weisenberger (junior-architecture) added that it was nice to see such a “quirky” film given a fair shake.
Katie Genovese saw Birbiglia perform a standup routine at the theater two years ago, and subsequently became a devoted fan of his offbeat comedic style.
“His standup goes along with this movie,” said Katie Genovese (junior-psychology). “He tells the same stories and it was cool to see it [onscreen]. It was really good.”
Tickets for the film cost $6 for seniors and students. All other tickets cost $8.