Wednesday, 3 April 2013


Sharmill Films

Now Showing

When your engagement to long-time girlfriend induces bouts of sleepwalking, you might have cause for mild concern. When it has you jumping out of a second-storey hotel window -- in said sleeping state -- in the middle of the night, you might have a serious problem. So it was for comedian Mike Birbiglia.

Sleepwalk With Me is the American comedian's somewhat autobiographical tale (based on his stand-up show) which charts the rise of his stand-up career and the simultaneous decline of his relationship with university sweetheart, Abby (Lauren Ambrose).

Actually, the names have been changed to protect the innocent but Birbiglia (here named Matt Pandamiglio) doesn't let himself off easy. He's a lousy fiance and, early on, an equally lousy stand-up; underwhelming the crowds at the New York comedy bar where he tends whenever he gets the opportunity to perform.

But when he hits on the idea to use his relationship as the basis of his material, Matt strikes a rich vein of comedy gold that wins over the audiences and has him receiving more and more out-of-town bookings.

That leaves Abby (blissfully unaware of Matt's new material) to handle all the wedding plans but doesn't curb Matt's bouts of sleepwalking; distance may make the heart grow fonder but it doesn't put a (sleeping) doubt-riddled mind to rest with Matt's nocturnal problem becoming progressively worse until said window jumping brings everything to a head.

I'd not heard of Mike Birbiglia, a comedian who is also regular on This American Life, a weekly public radio show which I am ashamed to say I've never listened to, before Sleepwalk With Me. He has a warm, likeable screen presence (he often talks to camera, telling his story with hindsight) and a self-effacing sense of humour. And based solely on this evidence, there's nothing abrasive or offensive about Birbiglia's brand of comedy.

That may disappoint those looking for a comedy with edge or bite, but Sleepwalk With Me isn't without (for want of a better word) a message or two, namely don't give up on your dreams, and don't get married simply because it's the expected thing to do. Or as Oprah might say, 'find your passion' and 'doubt means no' (though the film's never that laboured or trite about it).

It takes bravery to be honest and to live your life your way. It's also kind of brave to use your life, however fictionalised, as fodder for entertainment be it a movie or on the stand-up stage; even more so if you're just as critical of yourself as you are of others.

Sleepwalk With Me may not challenge you but it's an amusing account of one's man's journey of self discovery and actualisation. And at just 81 minutes, there's barely time for a micro-sleep. Not that you'll need it: Birbiglia is excellent company, awake or sleepwalking.

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