Sleepwalk with Me | Movie review
Comedian Mike Birbiglia retells his best story. Again.
How many really good stories does any of us accrue in a lifetime? Mike Birbiglia has a great one: the very funny, kinda sad, mostly true tale of how his anxieties about his relationship began to manifest themselves through increasingly bizarre sleepwalking incidents. The stand-up comedian started telling this story years ago, first in abbreviated form as a 2008 This American Life segment. From there, it grew into a one-man Off Broadway show, then a nonfiction best-seller, then a live comedy album. Now, at last, it comes to movie theaters, with Birbiglia himself starring as the not-so-creatively renamed Matt Pandamiglio, and Lauren Ambrose appearing as his long-term (and long-suffering) girlfriend.
If you liked Sleepwalk with Me on stage, page or record, there’s a good chance you’ll continue to enjoy it onscreen. Birbiglia has faithfully reproduced his routine. Too faithfully, in fact: The performer has been telling this yarn for so long he’s forgotten how to do anything but tell it. The film’s lazy framing device, in which Birbiglia preserves his spoken-word musings in the form of fourth-wall-breaking narration, results in a lot of overlap between what we’re seeing and what we’re told. Jokes are also lost in translation; the sleepwalking shenanigans, for example, are somehow less funny seen than described. Perhaps this is one long-form monologue that didn’t need a cinematic interpretation. Or maybe Birbiglia has just reached that moment in any storyteller’s career when he’s used up his best anecdote.