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Published March 20th 2013
I'm going to tell you a story and it's true...' says Mike Birbiglia in the opening lines of Sleepwalk With Me, a new comedy written, directed and staring Birbiglia, about an aspiring stand-up comedian whose refusal to face the realities of his life results in him sleepwalking in increasingly bizarre, humorous and ultimately dangerous scenarios.
We follow Birbiglia in his journey from bar tender at a comedy club to a performing at small-time gigs across the states, framed by Birbiglia's retrospective commentary, which serves to add humour in an often self-disparaging manner, such as when he reminds the audience that 'you're on my side.'. Entwined with this is his relationship with girlfriend, Abby, which at first seems happy, if mediocre, but is soon revealed to be anything but. With his sister's engagement, his family and Abby press towards marriage, Birbiglia begins to sleepwalk as he refuses to acknowledge to Abby that this isn't what he wants.
I wasn't sure initially what to expect from Sleepwalk With Me as I'm not generally a huge fan of stand-up comedy, so I was pleasantly surprised when I found myself chuckling throughout the movie (and from the sounds of it I wasn't the only one enjoying the screening). The sleepwalking scenes in particular were often hilarious, flashing between surreal scenes, such as the pizza-neck-pillow and Birbiglia in reality as the stumbling mumbling dreamer in random awkward positions. But the dreams quickly heighten as his relationship spirals out of his control, until they begin to impact on his life and placing both himself and others in danger. Likewise his stand-up gigs start off as decidedly mediocre, even though his character is quite witty in his off-stage interactions. It's not until he finally throws away his cookie monster sketches and puts his real life into his comedy, with lines like 'I'm not going to get married until I'm sure nothing else good can happen in my life', that we see his full potential as a stand-up.
Sleepwalk With Me was tender and sweet without being cheesy (aside from the many pizza references) and emotive without being melodramatic, the relationships in particular were very relatable, as were most of the experiences in the movie. Overall it was a very enjoyable movie. Co-written and produced by Ira Glass (from the US radio show, This American Life), Sleepwalk With Me features a host of familiar faces, including Lauren Ambrose from Six Feet Under as Abby, Carol Kane and James Rebhorn as the parents, plus comedians Marc Maron, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Jessi Klein, Henry Phillips and David Wain all make appearances.
Melbourne details: Sleepwalk With Me is released nationally on 4 April, but you can catch a special advance screening at the Nova Cinema in Carlton on Easter Sunday with a Q&A session with Mike Birbglia live and Ira Glass over Skype, and you can also see Mike Birbiglia live at the comedy festival in his new show My Girlfriend's Boyfriend.