Review of Sleepwalk With Me

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A burgeoning stand-up comedian struggles with the stress of a stale career, a boring relationship, and the wild spurts of severe sleepwalking.
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Movie Reviews: "Sleepwalk with Me"

-- Rating: Unrated
Length: 90 minutes
Release Date: August 24, 2012
Directed by: Mike Birbiglia
Genre: Comedy / Drama

"Sleepwalk with Me" is a captivating comedy portraying the journey of an aspiring comedian's sleepwalking disorder as his career and love life are in disarray. Within the context of sleepwalking disorders, although rare, cases of sleepwalkers' sending emails, cleaning, cooking, driving, and even committing homicide have been observed. Even though sleepwalking is no laughing matter, "Sleepwalk with Me" easily demonstrates how something dangerous can be turned into humor while drama surrounds the individual.

"Sleepwalk with Me" is based on the star, writer, and director Mike Birbiglia's off-Broadway show and his first book. After being named the show of the year in 2009 by "Time Out New York," Birbiglia authored "Sleepwalk with Me and Other Painfully True Stories" which saw similar success. The book debuted in the "New York Times" as number 29 in its nonfiction bestseller list.

Birbiglia proficiently directs a cast of experienced actors. The scripted storyline, filled with humor and excitement, provides a look at a struggling comedian with a stalled relationship. Matt has the deadpan humor of Steven Wright and the jitteriness of Woody Allen. Matt (Mike Birbiglia) and Abby (Lauren Ambrose, best known for playing Claire Fisher in "Six Feet Under") are in their late 20s, have been together since college, and are not yet married. Matt is good-humored and composed even when his stand-up acts are not working. He works as a bartender in a New York comedy club during his time off but rarely gets to do his act. Conversely, Abby is a beautiful, smart, and extremely tolerant person, especially to Matt's childlike behavior and reluctance to get married. In many ways, Abby is the perfect woman for Matt. Nonetheless, not everything is as it seems.

Like many couples, Matt and Abby do have their problems. However, unlike most people, Matt has an entire audience to listen to him. Once his comedy tour begins, Matt finds difficulty receiving laughs. After his stress and anxiety about his relationship and career begin to increase, he vents his frustrations to the audience. Once he connects with the audience on a human level, he begins to see success. Matt decides to betray his relationship by stating, "I decided I'm not going to get married until I'm sure that nothing else good can happen in my life." Of course, during his tour, he is reluctant to tell Abby about what he is saying to get the laughs.

On the road, comedians Marc Maron, Kristin Shall, David Wain, Hannibal Burees, and Wyatt Cenac represent the struggles that stand-up comedians go through. The comedians gain their meager wages by driving place to place and doing stand up in front of small crowds or ones that give brutal heckling. However, the road is not all bad for Matt. After all, it is on the road where Matt gains maturity and self-awareness.

As Matt and Abby's relationship gets worse, Matt is asked why he is still an unmarried bartender and other questions he wants to avoid. As the anxiety of these questions and his career take their toll, Matt's sleepwalking gets worse. During one episode, Matt wakes Abby by kicking her hamper and yelling, "There is a jackal in here!" As his stress gets worse, so does his sleepwalking episodes. During a sleepwalking episode, Matt attempts to hurt himself by jumping from a second-story hotel window. Finally, Matt decides he has had enough. He finally forces himself to make the decision between his relationship, comedy, and his sleep problem. Matt learns that telling the truth or he will end up living a miserable life.

The sleepwalking episodes, staged as surreal dream sequences, along with the realistic portrayal of comedians on the road give "Sleepwalk with Me" the extra characteristics to make it unlike any other films of its genre. The episodes, along with the direction, overall script, and cinematography make "Sleepwalk with Me" an appealing film for movie goers of all types.

Rating 3 out of 5