Synopsis: 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.
Stars: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane, Cristin Milioti, Aya Cash
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Running Length: 90 minutes
Trailer Review: Here
TMMM Score: (6.5/10)
Review: Some reviews of Sleepwalk With Me have hailed writer/director/star Birbiglia as a modern day Woody Allen and it’s not hard to see why. Well…Woody Allen circa Annie Hall not the Woody Allen of Soon-Yi infamy. Anyway, Birbiglia adapted his book which later became a hit off-Broadway play for the big screen and while that may seem like a natural progression it was no easy feat. The end result is a sweetly charming movie that is filled with Allen-like observations on love and romance from a distinct point of view.
Chronicling a year in the life of Birbiglia (actually playing a looser version of himself named Matt Pandamiglio), the film mozies along with ease thanks solely to the likability of our star. Looking like Paul Rudd’s blood relative, Birbiglia has an easy-going delivery and connection to the material that gets you in his corner immediately. Now Birbiglia may not keep you totally in his corner based on some of his actions later in the film but overall his is a character you won’t mind rooting for.
Told in flashbacks by a present day Birbiglia as he makes a road trip, the central relationship focused on is Matt and his girlfriend Abby (Ambrose who is more awake here than she was in the recent snoozer miniseries Coma). Newly living together when we first meet them, they have an easy rapport suggesting a couple that’s been together a while. Matt and Abby aren’t your typical duo that finish each other sentences or are wary enough to not let the little things bother them.
This sense of comfort is actually what the film challenges most. It’s fairly evident that both parties are sticking around for the security of the other with neither being willing to admit that maybe their ships are sailing in different directions. She’s an earthy teacher and he’s a struggling comic logging miles in his hand me down jalopy playing one nighters’ for fifty bucks. He loves being on the road because it helps him stretch his relationship into a long engagement and avoid the problems that begin to creep up.
While the names have been changed, Birbiglia assures us that everything that happens is true in one way or another. An oft returned to subplot is Birbiglia’s sleepwalking disorder that provides some comic relief and obvious symbolism. Having seeing Birbiglia in interviews before his movie was even a glimmer in his lens, I had thought the film was more about the sleepwalking than about his relationship. No matter, both are interesting as they develop and eventually collide.
Produced by popular talk radio personality Ira Glass, Sleepwalk With Me ultimately is a fleeting effort that you can hunker down and get into but just as easily leave behind. It’s an entertaining stroll with a charismatic star, reminding us that the more we are awake in our live (literally and figuratively) the more we can be honest with ourselves and work through our quirks.