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February 24, 2013

Movie Review: Sleepwalk With Me (2012)

Fans of Mike Birbiglia have heard his sleepwalking stories throughout his stand-up career. My Secret Public Journal was an album that brought this issue to light to his fans, and he has continued to tell stories on television, podcast and radio appearances for several years. Birbiglia has been a part of the radio show This American Life for years, and he employed the help of show host and friend Ira Glass to get Sleepwalk With Me onto the big screen. As a Birbiglia fan, I had mixed feelings about the movie. Maybe I can figure out why.

The movie has a very 1990s indie feel to it. Birbiglia, as beginning comedian Matt Pandamiglio, narrates to the audience as he drives around to seemingly nowhere. As the story rolls on, we see a fictionalized autobiography of Birbiglia's start in comedy, his struggle with a relationship that he thinks he should be in and knows he shouldn't, and his trials and tribulations with severe sleepwalking. Matt is a bit of a whiner who never seems to actually accomplish anything. His girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), has life together, but she's the type who wants to believe that she and Matt should just go through the motions and that should make everything work out. Matt begins to struggle with sleepwalking incidents that lead to injury on many occasions. As Matt grows as a comedian, his relationship and sleep disorder head downhill.

It's not that I didn't like this movie. Unfortunately, nothing here was new to me. I had already heard every story in Birbiglia's stand-up act or in a podcast interview. I suppose it was interesting to see these stories come to life. I think this might bring him new fans, but old fans may just sit like I did and think, "Oh, he's doing that bit." The toughest part for me is that when these things are done on stage, they're told in a comedic way. Sleepwalk is much more dramatic, and honestly, a little slow. I would rather listen to the comedy albums any day, but I shouldn't let that take away from the great things about the movie. For one, it's a much better look at stand-up comedy than Funny People was. Also, there were some really good performances here. Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn and Marc Maron are all great in supporting roles. I really, really wanted to love this. I just kinda like it. I don't know. I say it's worth catching as a biopic more than a comedy. Give it a shot.

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