This review was originally published on January 27, 2012…
Matt (Mike Birbiglia) is the kind of guy who simply cannot make a decision. He’s been dating his simply lovely girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose Ambrose) for over 8 years and that seems to be the only commitment he can handle. As an aspiring comedian the closest he really gets is fill-in spots at a bar where he bartends and other than that, the only terrific thing in his life is Abby. For her, the biological clock is ticking and apparently because she’s too kind and supportive to say anything, Abby has yet to put any kind of demand on Matt. While this may sound like a fairly typical grown man-child trying to grow-up kind of story (and it is) “Sleepwalk With Me” endears itself because of its honesty and simply hilarious and selfless performance by writer/director/star Mike Birbiglia.
I will fully admit that I am a huge comedy nerd and Birbiglia is a favorite of mine. I’ve heard him for years on “This American Life” (Ira Glass and T.A.L. are also credited as producers here) and his hilarious proclivities, general foot dragging and modern day Woody Allen-esque thoughts are always a treat. But as with many stories and figures from “This American Life,” you often want more than the small stories delivered there and “Sleepwalk With Me” is a Big Gulp-sized dose of Birbiglia.
In the film we journey with Birbiglia as his life hits a snag and then begins a shift. He sees people around him chasing their dreams while he hasn’t even fully admitted his own. Again, Birbiglia is fantastic and self-effacing in the role of Matt which is not all that cleverly a disguise of himself. He decides to take on more comedy gigs for all the wrong reasons and soon finds himself on the road alongside people like Wyatt Cenac and Marc Maron who also “play” comedians. If you love comedy, the film has several appearances by great acts and it’s like a “Where’s Waldo” of funny person spotting. But aside from the laughs and great casting (Carol Kane plays Matt’s mom!) the film is also heartfelt, sad and strangely hopeful.
“Sleepwalk With Me” very much reminded me of a take on “High Fidelity” with comedians instead of music snobs. While Matt is no comedy snob, he often breaks the fourth wall and adds insight to his thinking in the film and it’s done extremely well. With his lost child or abandoned puppy looks combined with true comedic insight, you want to see Matt succeed but it’s never clear if he really will. Birbiglia is outstanding, and he should be as this is his life, but I was also very impressed with Lauren Ambrose’s sweet, effervescent role as Abby. Maybe I’ve always been trapped with the thought that she’s dark and cynical due to her terrific performances in “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Six Feet Under,” but here she’s sweet and gorgeous and even gets to sing a song, which she belts out wonderfully. I really loved this film and like any great comedian, Birbiglia adds brutal, sad truth to his script and performance. I love the honesty, laughs and the inside look at a talented, yet insecure, guy’s life and the road he chooses to take as he aspires for more.