Comedians are known for using their personal lives as a go to source for their comedy routines. It's actually a good idea if your life is interesting enough and you're not ashamed to talk about those experiences. Mike Birbiglia is a comedian who has both of those things working for him, but he's done more than put it to use on stage. He decided to take a significant time in his life and turn it into a movie called Sleepwalk with Me.
Based on the one-man show of the same name, this film's story obviously centers around the life of comedian Mike Birbiglia. Essentially, it's somewhat of a fictionalized autobiography that's told by Birbiglia himself from the comfort of the driver's seat of a car. He stars as Matt Pandamiglio and tells us a story that takes place during a pivotal and potentially life changing time in his life that puts a heavy emphasis on family, love, sleepwalking and life goals.
Early on in the film, we're introduced to his family and others that play an important part in his life. They're a seemingly normal bunch with some quirky personalities thrown in between. Most of the focus on his family falls on his parents and the relationship that he has with them. His father is a knowledgeable, but intrusive patriarch who keeps his nose in his son's business and wants to help him as much as he can. His mother on the other hand, also cares about him, but she seems a little "out there" at times.
At a certain point, the story in Sleepwalk with Me focuses on the struggles of being a comedian and what they have to go through in order to even have a chance to succeed at their chosen profession. Seeing what they get paid at the start of their careers, how much they have to travel and the various other things that they experience is shown here to give viewers a glimpse of this particular lifestyle.
He finds himself attempting to master his craft while answering questions about his love life with his long-time girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose). She's introduced from the start as well and is a valuable part of Sleepwalk with Me. Abby is a caring, sweet, and supportive person who seems to have Mike's best interest in mind much of the time. She's viewed by the people around them as an amazing person who's near perfect in some ways. Nobody would say it, but she might even be out of Mike's league to an extent.
I'm not going to go into too many specifics, since I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but the relationship between Matt and Abby is handled in a very realistic way. It's rare to find a movie or television show that looks at relationships the way this film does. What occurs between the two is shown from an unbiased perspective that doesn't look to vilify or victimize either one of them. This is by design, because it wants the audience to look at things from that perspective in order to gain a full understanding of what's going on.
These two have some normal relationship issues at play that a lot of people can probably both relate to and understand. You may have had some of this happen to you, or you may know someone who has been in this type of common predicament. Either way, it's done well and it flows with the rest of the movie smoothly.
This relationship and the dynamic that is shared between these two helped change the life of Mike Birbiglia and it's probably the most important part of the entire film. When I look at their relationship and who they are as people, I don't see a love story or anything like that. I see this as being a part of a life story that people can look at and maybe even learn from.
You're able to get a genuine sense of who each character is and when it all unfolds, you can feel and make sense all the choices that are made throughout the film by them. I can't say enough about the characters and how everything is handled by the actors and first time director Mike Birbiglia. Because of them, this breezy and easy going film is definitely worth watching.
Of course there is the sleepwalking issue that Matt (and Mike) has to deal with in the movie that I have to speak on. In reality, this aspect of Sleepwalk with Me means very little to the actual story. It's simply a part of his life and it's illustrated as that and nothing more. Some of these scenes that included the sleepwalking are funny, but they could have taken it out of the entire film and it wouldn't have had any real impact.
Overall, Sleepwalk with Me is a laid-back and low-key film that comes close to being a little on the somber side of things. It never completely reaches that somber feeling in my opinion and I'm glad it didn't. It would have made this semi-autobiography less authentic since it's coming from a comedian, and it would have sensationalized it a bit more. That would have eliminated a significant portion of its charm. And we wouldn't want that to happen.
Director: Mike Birbiglia
Film Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: August 31, 2012
Distributor: IFC Films