Sleepwalk With Me *** (out of five)
Charming, self-deprecating and ultimately lovable, while rarely producing anything coming close to a laugh out loud (although it does get funnier as it goes, very much in keeping with its theme), Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me is an extremely low-key look at the beginnings of a career in being a “road comic” – a stand-up comedian who travels (in this case much of the US, by car) from gig to low-paid gig, refining their act – and their abilities – in the process. It is refreshing and honest.
Matt (Birbiglia, playing himself even more than Woody Allen plays himself, because he’s literally telling him own story, to the camera) has relationship worries. He’s been with his girlfriend (the excellent Lauren Ambrose) since college; she wants to marry; he doesn’t know what he wants but it’s probably not marriage. Really, he wants a stand-up career; his obstacle is that he’s terrible at it. But with a couple of lucky encounters he gets the barest hint of a start, and, once he begins to find his voice, he can begin to find his act – and it is the creation of that act that essentially forms this very slight (81 minute) movie.
Mike has a very serious sleep disorder: he not only sleepwalks, he acts out his dreams, so, if they involve him physically, he in turn puts himself in jeopardy. It’s an interesting insight into an unusual malady – especially when the very nature of his work forces him to begin sleeping alone for weeks at a time, in strange hotels – but, really, this film lives or dies on the charm of its protagonist. Luckily, Birbiglia is very charming indeed.
You can hear my interview with Ira Glass, co-producer and co-writer of Sleepwalk With Me, on MOVIELAND, Saturday, April 13th, at 5pm on your local ABC radio station across Australia.