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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Sept 25: Sleepwalk With Me


Sept 25: Sleepwalk With Me

"A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stalled career, a stale relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking he is desperate to ignore."
Directed by: Mike Bribiglia, Rated: NR, 90 minutes

I have always been a fan of comedian Mike Birbiglia. In fact, when I really started getting into watching (and enjoying) stand up, he was the first guy I really connected with in that awkward, "I know I have problems but I get by with humor" kind of way. He's a genuine comedian who's not afraid to poke fun at himself and is incredibly admirable in his honesty. Now, the guy's been doing comedy for years and I have continually anticipated his jump to the big screen, thinking that's the next logical step for someone in his profession. With Sleepwalk With Me, we not only see him on screen for the first time (in a substantial role), but we see a film he not only wrote, but directed as well. With the help of Ira Glass from This American LifeBirbiglia is able to create a film packed to the brim with pathos and humor, and gives us something to laugh at, even if it's at the expense of his semi-autobiographical self. 

Ripped from the pages of his Secret Public Journal

Matt Pandamiglio (Birbiglia) is a struggling stand up comedian, working as a bartender and getting in five minute bits whenever he can. His girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose), has been with him for over eight years. Both are seemingly happy and in love, but the longer marriage is delayed (and questioned), the futher the two begin to slowly drift apart. After Matt manages to make a contact with an agent, he hits the road for several weeks doing gigs thousands of miles apart, over several states, for pocket change. All of it's for the sake of his dreams of being a comedian as well as distancing himself from a future he's not sure he wants. The title comes into play when Matt finds himself continually sleepwalking. As his stress level rises, so does the obscurity of the dreams, which include fights with jackals and the Dustbuster Olympics. Matt continues to wonder if Abby is for him and if marriage is the next step in his life. His career slowly gets going, at the expense of using jokes that poke fun at their private moments and future. The film is told as Matt heads to another gig, with a Woody Allen-esque retrospective that gives the movie it's funniest moments. 

Young Woody Allen... 

Mike Birbiglia shows that he's a comedic talent worth watching. The bits of familiar stand-up he throws into the film gives you the  Birbiglia you came to see, but the story at the heart of the film shows that he's much more talented than just standing in front of a microphone telling jokes. Lauren Ambrose is phenomenal as the beautiful Abby and, while you're not supposed to root for her (as Matt states "you're on my side"), you can't help but understand her frustrations and relate to what she's going through. Carol Kane and James Rebhorn also give great supporting performances, even when Rebhorn, who plays Matt's dad, seems a little too overbearing at times. The film also features small roles (almost cameos) by plenty of comedians you'll recognize. 

As much as I love the guy, all I ever think of is Blank Check

While the film has a couple of flaws, as a first film for Birbiglia, it leaves you wanting more. The man has a natural talent of feeling so real and seeing him struggle is like watching a best friend have the worst day of his or her life. He's relatable on a scale not many comedians (actors even) find themselves on and it's in this honesty that Sleepwalk With Me really shines. My concern is that because the film is strongly auto-biographical, if Birbiglia has more in his cannon for new movies and what path his career will take after this breakout hit. Either way, I eagerly anticipate what he'll do next and, in the mean time, I'll have Sleepwalk With Me to keep me company. God knows I've never laughed out loud as much as I have with this movie. Sleepwalk With Me is easily one of the best films of the year. 

The Good:
so much humor thrown into a 90 minute film
The Better:
that same humor never feeling forced, but really genuine 
The Best:
seeing that someone I've liked for so long finally getting what he deserves, and doing a damn good job with it

Overall: 9.2/10


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At September 27, 2012 at 4:23 PM , Anonymous Eric said...

I just saw this a couple weeks ago. Wasn't familiar with Birbiglia going into it, but I walked out as a new fan of his. Glad to hear you enjoyed this so much as well!

At September 27, 2012 at 6:26 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Glad you're now a fan! He's so damn good.

At September 29, 2012 at 2:16 PM , Blogger Alex Sewell said...

This has been at my indie cinema for too long for me not to see it yet. It's time to change that. :)

At September 29, 2012 at 5:22 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Yes it is! lol. Go to it now!!!


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