Saturday, September 1, 2012
Sleepwalk with Me
Mike Birbiglia’s film, based on a one-man show he wrote about his own life, is a slight, occasionally funny movie caught between its auteur’s desires to tell a conventionally funny story and his ambition to do so in an innovative, rule-breaking manner. Ultimately, Birbiglia’s trickery is not memorable enough, nor his story engrossing enough, to make this film anything more than a minor pleasure.
Birbiglia plays struggling stand-up Matt Pandamiglio, whose career and relationship are both struggling to survive. Lauren Ambrose is his patient, supportive, two-dimensional girlfriend Abby, who is starting to hint, sometimes subtly, sometimes not, that she is ready to settle down and start a family. Matt’s parents (Carol Kane and James Rebhorn) are also exerting pressure on him to get serious, about Abby and his life in general.
Matt’s response to all this pressure can probably be guessed by looking at the title: he starts sleepwalking, specifically by acting out his dreams. Eventually, Matt, just like his real-life counterpart, starts to see his career and life grow after becoming more honest about his feelings. It is only after incorporating his fears and conflicts into his stand-up routine that Matt accomplishes anything.
It’s a satisfying conclusion, but relatively pat and obvious. The slices of Birbiglia’s stand-up that peek through the narrative are often clever, but very little about this film’s construction matches that level of wit and creativity.