A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore.
Writers: Mike Birbiglia, Joe Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Seth Barrish
Director: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish (Co-director)
Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose and James Rebhorn
Runtime/Rating: 90 Minutes/ NR
Popcorn Score: Medium Popcorn with Butter
“Sleepwalk With Me” is a comedy about an comedian struggling with his act, his girlfriend and personal life all while experiencing a sleeping disorder that causes him to unconsciously act out his dreams, sounds like it could be pretty fun. It is for the most part, but the fun times turns to nightmares when a sleepwalking dream causes him to jump out of a 2nd story hotel, avoiding death, but crashing to the ground with shreds of glass tearing up his legs.
This is the type of balancing act that “Sleepwalk with me” successfully achieves throughout the Indie comedy that is adapted from the one man off-Broadway show with the same name. The film stars, and is loosely (and in the case of the window incident, really) based on comedian Mike Birbiglia’s life.
As the movie opens we meet Matt Pandamiglio(Mike Birbiglia), talking directly into the camera we quickly learn that he is an aspiring comedian that recently in comedy clubs, has done much more floor mopping, and drink pouring than joke telling. We also meet his wonderful girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) who is gorgeous, and wonderful, and way too good for this janitor/bartender/hopeful comedian. The pressures of life are amplified by the couple moving in together and a continuous burden to accelerative his life and get married. Much of which comes from his loopy mother, and his unsympathetic father (Carol Kane, James Rebhorn). After meeting with a C-level talent agent, the seemingly unconfident, untalented comedian books a handful of gigs along the east coast college comedy circuit. Despite his lack of success, he remains optimistic and is at least making money telling jokes. During a post-show discussion with a successful comedian played by Marc Maron, he stumbles upon his comedic edge; his dreams, his relationship, his family… his personal life.
Despite the onstage success, this fresh material is surely going to cause issues with his girlfriend and compounded with his sleep disorder becoming more dangerous by the night; his life is still as lost as when we met him.
The movie is best when it shows what life on the road is like for a young comedian. As expected, jokes are present throughout, however, until Matt finally finds his niche as a comedian, much of his stand up is abysmal and awkward by design. The supporting cast all does its job as joke/ plot providers’ admirably. His parents steal the scenes when on screen as the wearing married couple but I wish that the capable Lauren Ambrose could have been given a little more to do. It has lots of comedian cameos, I would imagine Birbiglia’s real life pals, peppered in it throughout. David Wayne, Ira Glass, Kristen Schaal, Jessi Klein all make appearances as friends or comedians.
When everything wraps up I am impressed by the flow and balance of the movie from a rookie filmmaker in Mike Birbiglia. I am not too familiar with him on stage but I found him to be an enjoyable actor, who I was sympathetic for, while more than occasionally laughing along with him. The movie which he co-directs and is written by him and his brother along with “This American’s life’s” Ira Glass and co-director Seth Barrish is a very enjoyable Indie comedy that is well worth a visit, and I hope that there is more to come from this young comedian and filmmaking team.
Medium Popcorn with Butter.