SLEEPWALK WITH ME
When aspiring stand-up comedian Mike Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) finds it impossible to express his true feelings about his girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and his stalled career threatens to derail him, his anxiety comes out in increasingly weird and dangerous sleepwalking incidents.
Review by Louise Keller:
With its beguiling title and appealing protagonist, who bumbles and stumbles through his relationship, career and aspirations, Sleepwalk With Me is a fresh surprise package that explores reality, personal demons and which road to choose in a switched on and comical fashion. In his debut film, Mike Birbiglia writes about what he knows and this quirky comedy in which his character Matt Pandamiglio, a struggling stand-up comic with a sleep disorder who reaches a critical point in his life, reeks of truth. Based on an off-Broadway play and novel, the humour is cumulative, emanating from the characters and situations and resulting in a bubbling feel-good snapshot of life from the view point of an aspiring comic with an oddball slant on things.
Birbiglia has a way about him; he is a short, likeable 35 year old with a slight pot belly and a hang-dog manner. By taking us into his confidence in an occasional quip to camera, Birbiglia endears himself, sparking our curiosity and interest in his life and choices. He quickly introduces us to the main person in his life - his lovely vocal-workshop teacher girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose). Ambrose is charming with a young Mia Farrow appeal; we can perfectly understand her yearning to be a wife and mother and disappointment when life does not automatically progress in that direction.
The construct of Matt's sister Janet's (Cristin Milioti) engagement, allows us to meet the rest of the family - namely the parents Frank (James Rebhorn) and Linda (Carol Kane), who provide chuckles both from their manner and attitudes to their son, his career and life choices. Kane is deliciously funny as the wife with the high-pitched voice, who always has to have the final say. The whole family adores Abby and the constant prodding of when (after 8 years), they might tie the knot, becomes an ongoing scab, waiting to draw blood.
But Matt has other things that are occupying his mind. To begin with, he starts sleepwalking during intense dreams that regurgitate what is troubling his subconscious. These range from the ridiculous (eating a pizza collar, wrapped around his neck with tomato sauce spraying, while in the shower fully dressed) to fantasies about being a missile target and in which Abby and the rest of his family play roles. Grabbing the opportunity to hit the road with a string of poorly paid gigs as a stand up comic as a means to escape, Matt's revelation is his discovery of how to make his audience laugh. By changing his lame comedy material comprising tired, jokes to recounting intimate details of his life, to which his audience can relate, everything changes.
There are plenty of funny moments and Birbiglia holds our attention throughout as his sleep disorder, fantasies and nightmares converge into one potent, tart and sweet cocktail.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Stand up comedy is the hardest form of entertainment, the most challenging and inscrutable. If we don't like a singer we can ignore them but if we don't like a comic we hate them. The danger is escalated when the crowd is getting drunk. Why do they do it? Because the thrill of success (hearing laughter) is proportionate to the risk. It's like drugs: you get a high.
An occasionally endearing, occasionally dull and nerdy stand up comic, Mike Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia) talks us through his experiences, addressing us through the camera as he drives his beat up car to a destination we don't know till the very end. Oh, he also drives to comedy clubs in between, but these are all flashbacks and the one-way conversation is like a confession.
The off-Broadway play and the book were all apparently a big success in angst-devouring New York. The film, too, starts with promise, a disarming frankness and endearing clumsiness as Mike drives, pays tolls and talks to us at the same time.
The central engine for Mike's dissonance is his uncertainty - about his relationship with Abby (lovely and excellent Lauren Ambrose), about his talent, about his direction in life and about his parents who have made the mistake in his eyes of staying married for 40 years.
Surrounded by wonderful acting talent, Birbiglia gets a strong trade wind but ultimately it's up to him, and I can't help feeling the screen is unkind to him. The bumbling runs out of puff and the inertia infects us all the way to the back row. Moments of comedy and drama are preserved, but even at 81 minutes the film seems a tad long.
Email this article
SLEEPWALK WITH ME (M)
CAST: Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane, Cristin Milioti, Ava Cash, Marylouise Burke, Loudon Wainwright III, Ben Levin
PRODUCER: Ira Glass, Jacob Jaffke
DIRECTOR: Mike Birbiglia, Seth Barrish
SCRIPT: Mike Birbiglia, Joe Birbiglia, Ira Glass, Seth Barrish
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adam Beckman
EDITOR: Geoffrey Richman, Tania Biljani
MUSIC: Andrew Hollander
RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sharmill
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 4, 2013