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SLEEPWALK WITH ME (director/writer: Mike Birbiglia; screenwriters: Ira Glass/Joe Birbiglia/Seth Barrish/based on the play by Mike Birbiglia; cinematographer: Adam Beckman; editor: Geoffrey Richman; music: Andrew Hollander; cast: Mike Birbiglia (Matt Pandamiglio), Lauren Ambrose (Abby), Cristin Milioti (Janet), Aya Cash (Hannah), Marylouise Burke (Aunt Lucille), Loudon Wainwright III (Uncle Max), Sondra James (Colleen), James Rebhorn (Frank Pandamiglio), Carol Kane (Linda Pandamiglio); Runtime: 80; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Ira Glass/Jacob Jaffke; IFC Films; 2012)

“Modestly amusing autobiographically inspired work of fiction.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Comedian-turned-playwright-turned-filmmaker Mike Birbiglia, in his debut feature fiction film, directs, co-writes (with Ira Glass) and stars as a struggling stand-up club comedian, in this modestly amusing autobiographically inspired work of fiction. Birbiglia successfully transfers his comedy routine to the big screen, in this indie feature, even though I didn’t find it particularly funny it was nevertheless a very human, appealing and realistic story line. The personal film delves into the travails of being a stand-up comedian starting out at the bottom-rung without a rep, living with a possibly dangerous sleep-disorder and trying to handle a long-time love relationship that’s going nowhere. The film was adapted from the off-Broadway hit a few years ago, as it tells how the comedian found his mojo a few years ago by relating his real-life painful experiences into confessional gags told onstage. His limited success came with the price tag of his living out his angst driven nightmares by trying to kill the jackal in his dreams. In one instance while sleepwalking, Matt jumps out of his motel’s second-floor. The career chase also means Matt’s relationship ends, as he lives only for his one-man show. The winning joke he gains from this relationship is the following: “I decided I’m not going to get married until I’m sure that nothing else good can happen in my life.” With that Matt connects with the audience and comes-of-age as a professional comedian.

Birbiglia offers a likable nice-guy lighthearted voice-over throughout, as he tries hard to win the audience over to the hapless character he portrays. Matt’s subservient to his overbearing father (James Rebhorn) and eccentric mom (Carol Kane), but after much humiliation and grief about his derailed career he lucks into a series of out-of-town gigs in college venues that he parlays into a winning career move and shows how resilient he can be.

The stress-filled Matt Pandamiglio (Mike Birbiglia)wants more than anything else to be a successful stand-up comedian. For the last eight years he is locked into a dead-end relationship with his girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose), a supportive sweet college art teacher who wants to get married but knows he doesn’t. How Matt survives his career ordeal seems less on talent then on perseverance, his genial nature and thick skin.In a way it’s a diverting inspirational film, that also warns in a funny way that one should get professional help if needed and not avoid it like the film’s protagonist.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”