Sleepwalk with Me was one of the many films I missed at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival in March. It generated some good buzz for the film, and is now finally being released to theatres for everyone to see.
The film is told from the perspective of Mike Pandamiglio who is essentially Mike Birbiglia playing himself. He is a struggling comedian who does not have much material, basically enough for an eleven minute set. He works as a bartender at a comedy club which gives him the opportunity to still get up in front of people on an irregular basis and tell the same jokes. Mike has been in a relationship with Abby (Lauren Ambrose) for eight years. The relationship comes to a do or die moment with Abby really wanting to know if there will be marriage and babies in the near future. Mike basically is terrified of being married and just moving in together was a big step. Also, Mike also starts sleepwalking. All of these things converge to set Mike on trip of discovery and setbacks for his health, relationship, and career.
There are moments in Sleepwalk with Me that are utterly hilarious. Case in point is the first couple of minutes of the film. Mike breaks that imaginary fourth wall and speaks to the audience directly and does so at many points throughout the film. He is basically telling the story as he travels to a comedy gig. The film opens with Mike telling the audience to turn off their cell phones and going into an experience he had in a theatre. The phrases “Who dis?” and “Who dost?” are used and pretty much sets the tone for the type of laughs the film will be able to get from the audience.
Aside from the laughs, I did not find Mike to be a particularly interesting or likable character. He is too awkward, lame, and lacking in any type of motivation for self improvement. I completely get that this is how he is supposed to be in the film, but it becomes too much. I wanted Mike to turn a corner and become a little less unaware of himself. Towards the middle of the film, I found myself starting to feel a combination of feeling bad for Mike and wanting to kick him in the a** to get his life in gear. The film just moves too slowly. If not for the comedic moments, it would be a horrible film.
The sleepwalking part of the film provides more comedy to the film, even making it a little trippy with the situations Mike dreams he is in. Unfortunately for Mike, the sleepwalking episodes become more severe with bad results, but still are funny.
I will give the film kudos for having a great supporting cast with Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, and James Rebhorn. You never see Carol Kane in many things anymore, and she was a delight as Mike’s slightly eccentric mother. Kristin Schaal and John Lutz (both of 30 Rock) have small parts.
Sleepwalk with Me is a film that does exude some pretty hearty laughs. The comedy saves this film. Mike is just not a character that had me caring a lot about what changes and improvements he made in his life. They come too late. However, it does have the makings of an anthem for struggling comedians with great girlfriends they don’t deserve and sleepwalking tendencies.
I give Sleepwalk with Me 3 “Backstreet Boys” out of 5.
by Sarah Ksiazek