Mike Birbiglia might not be a name that’s easily recognizable, but his brand of comedy has amassed a bit of a following. Sleepwalk With Me was able to be funded based off the success of his one man, off-Broadway show. Like most comedians, he bases his jokes off of his own life, and his dry delivery sounds just unsure enough to make it somewhat relatable to anyone watching. This is where Sleepwalk With Me succeeds in spades. Part autobiographical, part fiction, he takes the approach of the film be one in which he’s self narrating as he’s driving around the country from gig to gig.
Mike is playing Matt Pandamaglio, a loose interpretation of himself in real life as he was trying to become an up-and-coming stand up comic. Lately he’s had bouts of REM behavior disorder, which is a dangerous form of sleepwalking. Whereas most sleepwalkers tend to just innocuously roam about, those with REM behavior disorder actually act out their dreams. They’ve been escalating in their severity and his family is concerned. At the root of his stress is his relationship with his girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose). His sleepwalking started when, after 8 years, they finally decided to move in together. She, very clearly, wants to get married and he, very clearly, does not. When he becomes more and more successful as a comic and they spend more time apart, it becomes even clearer to him what he must do.
Right off the film is incredibly hilarious. Even if you’re not familiar with Mike Birbiglia, there’s no need to be concerned about whether or not you’ll get his brand of comedy. His strength in comedy comes from being relatable, and that was even when his comedy started to take off, when he started talking about himself. Lauren Ambrose is really great in this as well. Putting on a fake smile to appease her man while she very much wants more out of their arrangement. She plays the supportive and understanding girlfriend perfectly.
Sleepwalk With Me was easily the funniest movie here at SXSW. It’s not quite on par with the overall quality of a film like High Fidelity, but it’s not that far off either. It remains to be seen what kind of reception overall the film will get, but if this screening was any indication, Mike Birbiglia is a name to be on the lookout for. Fans of his will not be disappointed, and those who have never heard of him will be glad to know there’s much more of him to be seen and heard on the internet. Personally, I can’t wait to see it again.