Sleepwalk with Me
Review No. 386
The Bottom Line: Sleepwalk with Me is a quirky, authentic comedy.
Directed by: Mike Birbiglia
Co-Director: Seth Barrish
Written by: Mike Birbiglia and Joe Birbiglia & Ira Glass and Seth Barrish
Matt Pandamiglio: Mike Birbiglia
Distributed by IFC Films on August 24, 2012. Produced in English by the United States. Runs 80 minutes. Rated PG-13 by the MPAA for some sexual content and brief language.
Sleepwalk with Me was watched on January 6, 2013.
“I’m going to tell you a story, and it’s true….I always have to tell people that.” –Mike Birbiglia
Mike Birbiglia starred in, directed, and co-wrote Sleepwalk with Me based on his own personal experiences. It truly is a neat little independent comedy, with surprisingly quirky and deep tones for a film about stand-up.
Within the first minute of the film, Matt—his character—gives us quite an amusing joke. He warns us to silence our cell phones, and then jokes about a time when someone actually picked up a call while he was trying to watch a movie. He’s funny, right?
It comes as a surprise that Matt wasn’t always the “funny guy.” In fact, Sleepwalk humorously relies on a single irony: the supposed comedian isn’t one bit funny, yet just about everyone else is what every stand-up comedian wants to be.
Matt discovers that he isn’t funny for a reason. He’s been wasting his life. Comedy had been his dream ever since the third grade, and instead, he landed a job as a bartender at a venue that features comics. He has no stories to tell from his own life, just run-of-the-mill “guy walks into a bar” jokes. Then he begins sleepwalking, something that gives his comedy an upside, and the rest of his life a downside.
I’d never heard of Mike Birbiglia prior to watching Sleepwalk with Me. I don’t often watch stand-up comedy, but when I do, I truly enjoy it, enough that I feel like a live audience member. Be it vulgar (i.e. Jeff Dunham) or wholesome (i.e. Bill Cosby), stand-up is a rare, sometimes unappreciated sort of comedy that draws laughs out of personal experiences that we can all relate to in some way.
Birbiglia seems to me like a comic that would not cease to entertain. His writing in Sleepwalk is absolutely brilliant. We don’t need him to do anything more than make us laugh to feel both amused and touched.
Unfortunately, Birbiglia seems to think otherwise. Whereas his narration of the entire film is something we’re all used to, it’s strange when he addresses the camera in an attempt to connect with the audience. (Again, he’s already succeeded, so he doesn’t need to.) Matthew Broderick took the technique to hilarious levels when he tackled it in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but the difference is he’s always accompanied by others. The technique has always relied on our existential belief that no matter how many people are accompanying the protagonist, none of them will hear, because he or she is simply addressing the audience. Here, the hero is generally alone.
Sleepwalk with Me isn’t perfect, but it is an easy flick to recommend. At eighty minutes, it’s concise enough to tell a brief story and end with the gist integrated in the viewers’ minds.
Here, it’s get up and go. Do what you want to do, so you can be what you want to be. And at eighty minutes, it takes the cheese and cliché out of such a phrase, and makes it seem solemn.
With sleepwalking. And comedy. It’s a comedy about comedy and sleepwalking. No, wait a moment…it’s a comedic drama about a stand-up comic’s methods of coping with sleepwalking, while we feel as if it’s actually a stand-up performance, and we’re right there in the audience laughing ourselves to death. If that makes any sense.
Sleepwalk with Me is funny, unique, authentic, and meaningful. There we go.