Directed by: Mike Birbiglia.
Written by: Mike Birbiglia and Joe Birbiglia and Ira Glass and Seth Barrish.
Starring: Mike Birbiglia (Matt Pandamiglio), Lauren Ambrose (Abby), Carol Kane (Linda), Cristin Milioti (Janet), James Rebhorn (Frank).
Mike Birbiglia is a talented stand-up comedian, who mines his own life for his material. He is soft spoken, socially awkward, shy and rather quiet. Which is why, as Sleepwalk with Me shows, it took a hell of a long time for his career to take off. Birbiglia wrote, directed and stars in this autobiographical movie, which like him is funny, charming, touching and just downright likable.
Birbiglia stars as Matt Pandamiglio, who wants to be a stand-up comedian, but in reality has simply become a bartender in a comedy club. He has been with Abby (Lauren Ambrose) for since college and everyone tells him how lucky he is to have her as his girlfriend. And it’s easy to see why – Abby is sweet, smart, sexy and ever supportive of everything Matt wants to do. While everyone else thinks Matt stand-up career is going nowhere, she encourages him to stick with it. But of course, just because everyone else thinks Matt and Abby are perfect for each other, that doesn’t mean they are. The movie is about how Matt’s career takes off, just as his relationship crashes and burns.
Birbiglia based on the movie on his one man show that was well received on Broadway, and helped Birbiglia land some episodes on NPR’s This American Life. Birbiglia is a natural storyteller, and Sleepwalk with Me is best when he speaks directly to the camera, telling his story. He knows how to hold the audience’s attention simply by talking to them. Of course, Birbiglia is also excellent when he’s on stage. As an actor, he is okay – he is after all, playing himself, although there are few dramatic scenes where he is clearly outclassed by Ambrose, who is excellent as Abby, who is perfect, just not perfect for Matt.
I don’t know whether Birbigilia has a real future as either a director or an actor, unless he continues to mine his own life to make movies – and I would like to see that. Sleepwalk with Me is charming and funny, and unlike many first films, doesn’t try to do too much. Birbiglia knows this story inside and out, and tells it well. I liked him in the movie, and because I did, I liked the movie as well.