Sleepwalk With Me (PG-13)

Drama 80 August 24, 2012
By Karina Longworth
As the material covered in Mike Birbiglia's Sleepwalk With Me already exists as a one-man show, a book, and a This American Life segment, a movie adaptation, to feel purposeful, should build on the previous incarnations by doing things that only cinema can do. If anything, Sleepwalk the movie, with its obstinately literal illustrations of Birbiglia's text, makes a persuasive case that the warm-bath introspection of the This American Life brand, and Birbiglia's own shaggy-dog storytelling, are ill-matched to a medium more about showing than telling. Birbiglia plays a version of himself, Matt Pandamiglio, the kind of hapless young man who has so much trouble keeping himself alive that he can't hope to thrive. But he's not that young anymore, and his girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) is pushing for marriage. A would-be stand-up who hasn't written a joke since college, Matt is clearly not ready for adult commitment. Marc Maron, cameoing as more or less himself, encourages Matt to tell the truth about his own life onstage, which means revealing to audiences the feelings he'd never reveal to his girlfriend. On the road, Matt's increasingly bizarre dreams, drawing on the themes and anxieties of the day, are accompanied by increasingly dangerous bouts of sleepwalking. Birbiglia the director weaves these into the narrative via dream/nightmare sequences, cutting between Matt's subconscious and glimpses of Matt sleepwalking as seen by bystanders. These sequences ride a weird tonal line, maybe aiming to split the difference between comedy and terror, but coming off as afraid to really go for it on either.
Mike Birbiglia Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, James Rebhorn, Aya Cash, Alex Karpovsky, Sondra James, Teena Byrd, Alberto Bonilla, Amanda Perez, Teddy Cañez IFC Films

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