Sleepwalk With Me
by M. Faust
Tailor-made for comedy nerds, Sleepwalk With Me is a fictionalized adaptation of comic Mike Birbiglia’s monologue about his early days in the business. Along the way he became a sleepwalker—well, more accurately he developed “REM sleep behavior disorder,” a condition in which the sufferer physically responds to his dreams.
Scenes of Birbiglia, or rather his comic alias Matt Pandamiglio, reacting to dreams in funny but increasingly dangerous ways lend the movie some comic punch, but they’re really just a MacGuffin for a familiar portrait of the unformed young artist, resisting fitting into his expected role while uncertain that he’s ever going to get any further in his chosen profession than tending bar at a comedy club. He has been with Abby (Lauren Ambrose) for eight years, lately resisting hints from her and his family that it’s time it get married. His career finally takes off when he starts to work in material about his fear of relationships, most of which he would never want his long-supporting girlfriend to hear.
If you’re familiar with Birbiglia, it’s probably from his appearances on NPR’s This American Life. That show’s Ira Glass co-wrote the script with Birbiglia, who also directed and does a plausible job. It doesn’t hurt that he was able to recruit a lot of his friends in the business to play small parts: Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Hannibal Buress. There’s also Carol Kane as his mother, and no film has ever suffered for having Carol Kane in it.
The nebbishy, soft-looking Birbiglia is a sharper comic than his halting delivery initially has you believe, and the film is an effective showcase for him. The movie as a whole is a bit undernourished—it doesn’t seem as if it would have been hard to add another 10 minutes to its brief running time. Still, in its modest way its more successful than Celeste and Jesse Forever or any number of other indie comedies.
Watch the trailer for Sleepwalk With Me
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