A touching one-man-band docu about an affable Frenchman traveling across America’s forgotten backroads, “Hollywood, I’m Sleeping Over Tonight” packs plenty of humor, compassion and good vibes into its tiny rucksack. Using a novel technique that involves strapping a mini-DV camera to his shoulder and another to a homemade Steadicam, filmmaker Antoine de Maximy takes an anti-“Borat” approach to the genre as he journeys from coast to coast, meeting a bizarre cast of second-class citizens along the way. Already popular as a French TV series, feature should fare well locally and could travel to fests and arthouse distribs.
Pic kicks off with a literal nosedive as de Maximy jumps out of an airplane and parachute-drops somewhere along the East Coast. Armed with his two-camera system (one offering his p.o.v., the other his reaction shot) and a small backpack, he sets out for New York, but quickly learns hitchhiking is no longer what it used to be.
As he makes his way across the country, first via Amtrak and Greyhound (which clearly aren’t what they used to be, either), and then in a used funeral hearse, he encounters several odd characters, most of whom appear to be unemployed, alcoholic or downright loony. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given the filmmaker’s unique interrogation method, which consists of wandering into small towns, knocking on folks’ doors unannounced and asking them if he can spend the night.
Most powerful sequence takes place in post-Katrina New Orleans, where de Maximy walks among the ruins of the city’s poorer and clearly dodgy neighborhoods. But as in most of the other places he visits, he winds up meeting some genuinely friendly hosts who welcome him in and talk freely about the daily grind.
Rather than adopting the sardonic, often hateful tone that put Sacha Baron Cohen on the map, de Maximy takes an entirely sympathetic approach to his subjects, although he occasionally pulls off a quick one-liner or camera wink. His version of America seems to be a mostly melancholy place filled, like a Woody Guthrie song, with spirited downtrodden types who try to get by however they can.
Production is purposely low-tech in the director’s self-stylized method, which has already received notoriety as a series of short sketches on local channel France 5. Upbeat music by Fabrice Viel is mixed with a soundtrack of country, bluegrass and other Americana favorites.