Sleepwalk with Me
Comedians are not always funny, relationships are not always fairy tales and we often put off doing things we know we should do. That's what the film is about.
Sleepwalk With Me is an indie comedy that is based on writer-director Mike Birbiglia’s one-man standup show. Similarities can be instantly drawn to Woody Allen (in his Annie Hall days) as Birbiglia speaks to the camera about his failing relationship and struggles of being a comedian. Just like his standup, the film is honest, charming and entertaining. Sleepwalk With Me is one of the best comedies of the year.
Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) has been together with his high school sweetheart Abby (Lauren Ambrose) now for eight years. Until now their relationship has been steady but slow moving. That all changed when they decide to go apartment shopping together but even more so when with the whole family gets together for his sister’s wedding. Suddenly Aunts and Uncles awkwardly pronounce that he will now the next to get married. Speaking from personal experience, it happens just as depicted in the film.
Matt is a thirty-something aspiring comedian who suffers from Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder, a rare disease that causes one to physically act out their dreams. He begins to notice that everyone around him thinks that the best part about his life is his girlfriend which is a wakeup call for him that he needs to follow his dreams of being a comedian. This motivation is exactly what he needed, however, at the same time he is pursuing his dream he notices that he is growing further and further away from Abby (with no help from his family).
Matt works at a comedy club but spends most of his time behind the counter as a bartender instead of behind the mic. One day he runs into a manager that gives him his first gig as a standup comedian at a nearby University. His expectations were low but not as low as only getting a handful of students in a huge college auditorium. Even with a less than ideal first show he is pumped for his next opportunity which is another small gig a few hours away. You can tell that he is extremely happy to finally begin to do something he has always wanted, even if he is starting from the absolute bottom of the pole.
Sleepwalk With Me is not terribly unique but somehow it is incredibly entertaining and easy to watch. This is likely because Mike Birbiglia is a very sympathetic and likeable character with his down-to-earth humor. Being that he is a comedian means that he is naturally funny at therefore does not have to act like his is one. In return, that is precisely what makes his character so genuine.
The best part about Sleepwalk With Me is not that it is funny, which it is, but that it does not play it too safe, which would have easily done. The film is fully self-aware as Birbiglia breaks through the “forth wall” speaking directly to the camera about his mishaps. From the beginning you get a sense that the film is honest (reinforced with a hilarious mockery bit when people ask him “Is that really a true story?”) and that is exactly how it plays out. Comedians are not always funny, relationships are not always fairy tales and we often put off doing things we know we should do. That is what the film is about.