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Sleepwalk with Me

by on September 17, 2012
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A lighthearted breath of fresh comedic air, “Sleepwalk With Me” is a movie about many things that doesn’t crush you under the weight of indie self-importance.

Based on the true story of comedian Mike Birbiglia (with whom fans of the Bob and Tom Show are very familiar), “Sleepwalk” is about a burgeoning comedian, coincidentally named Matt Pandamiglia (Birbiglia), who, on the cusp of full-fledged adulthood and with his long-suffering girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose) getting too serious for comfort, finds himself with an unusual problem. Yes, sleepwalking.

I know it sounds ridiculous and pedantic, but for many adults, sleepwalking is, or can be, a frustrating, even debilitating and dangerous condition, and Birbliglia (who also directed and wrote the film, based on his play) does a good job of both visualizing how one sleepwalks and illustrating that it’s more than just a laughing matter or minor nuisance.

So there’s a lot going on: Matt’s fledgling comedy career (he catches a key break when another comic’s agent sees him after an impromptu comedy set), his insecurity about his relationship, and his obviously worried and loving, but somewhat overbearing, parents (played marvelously by James Rebhorn and Carol Kane). And then his sleepwalking slowly becomes more treacherous.

“Sleepwalk” also exists outside of itself, as the real Pandamiglia (well … Birbiglia … never mind) narrates his own story, casually telling his story during a car ride between comedy gigs.

He’s a likable guy, even as he reminds us “you’re on my side” before doing something that would make most characters seem like an ass, as well as unexpected narrative drops into sleepwalking sessions.

As a filmmaker, Birbiglia is a bit of a novice, but in a character-driven piece like this, it doesn’t matter much anyway. It’s not that Birbiglia is particularly bad, but his visual style isn’t going to be mistaken for David Fincher’s any time soon.

Birbiglia wisely puts strong actors around him, with Ambrose, Rebhorn and Kane especially putting in strong performances. Birbiglia gives off a common-man likability, full of the naivete of someone who hasn’t been there before. He’s not a professional actor but he doesn’t have to be.

Featuring something of an unconventional ending, “Sleepwalk” is an exceedingly fun film, easy to watch and full of things to say.