Sleepwalk With Me (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies
3Nov/120

Sleepwalk With Me (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

Sleepwalk With Me is about Mike Birbglia's sleep disorders-- how they popped up and how he deals with them. It's mostly about him admitting that he wants something more than he's got, and that he just may be too nice to admit that to anyone. Kindness is the killer here.

The movie is based on a true story, and that's the rise of Birbiglia's stand up career played against the deterioration with his first love, Abby (Lauren Ambrose). Birbiglia plays Mike Pandamiglio, presumably because he couldn't get the rights to his own life and had to resort to the cheap knockoff version instead.

After a few incredibly uncomfortable attempts at standup comedy and time making due as a bartender, he finally manages to find a groove when he uses his platform as a way to finally be able to discuss how uncomfortable he is with his relationship. Besides outright insulting her on stage, the distance is also too much for the relationship.

It's also about how much Birbiglia just wants that fucking cracker.

It's a painful falling apart, and Birbiglia (who also serves as co-director) does his best to nail the Annie Hall vibe as much as possible. We have shifting timelines, self depreciating monologues, and a bittersweet coda that indicates that there's still a raw nerve or two present underneath.

If I told you that Sleepwalk doesn't come close to Annie Hall, though, I doubt that it would register as much of a surprise. Birbiglia is bad at juggling his characters here, who, no matter how real they are to him, rarely come across as real to the audience. Oddly, this is especially true of himself: his Mike Pandamiglio is initially so bad at standup comedy, it's less 'humorous self depreciation' and more 'I wonder if this character is supposed to be mentally handicapped'.

Once his character warms up from 'Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber' to 'Jim Carrey in Liar Liar', the movie moves a bit better, but its framed like so many indie comedies these days-- ukelele and piano music pounding relentlessly and slow dull camera work-- that it's impossible to find much original presented outside Birbiglia's amusing bits.

Lauren Ambrose is either out of her element or poorly served here, functioning as an empty feminine ideal. There's also a host of comedian cameos which allows you to convert this into some sort of standup bingo if you're so inclined (Eugene Mirman! Ten points!). Pandamiglata's parents also get some play here (James Rebhorn! Half a point! Carol Kane! Still alive!), though they're relegated to near useless background sections.

It's like how she smiles all the time and then sometimes she looks sad.

Birbiglia's original "Sleepwalk With Me" album (definitely worth picking up, which you can do right here) is a brilliant monologue that touches on the urge to make other people happy and the unyielding desire to make sense out of the connections in our lives. It's funny, sweet, and honest. Sleepwalk With Me the film eschews most of those moments to instead take the audience on an aimless journey to a rather unremarkable destruction. It's remarkably disappointing.

Posted by Danny

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