When you think of a comedian that does it all: acting, directing, writing stories based upon their comedy act/life; Louis CK is most likely to come to mind(at least in recent memory) , right? He does it all with his show Louie, and it’s great. I don’t know he does it, but it’s just magic. So when you see someone like Mike Birbiglia try his take at directing/starring/writing a film, you have some Louis CK expectations. Well, I’m here to tell you not to put your expectations that high.
I’m not telling you to disregard Mike Birbiglia and his work, but his directorial debut, Sleepwalk With Me, is no Louie by any means.
Sleepwalk With Me is a semi-true tale of a struggling comedian, uncommitted boyfriend, and problem sleepwalker Matt Pandamiglio (played by Mike Birbiglia….I know…weird resemblance). Matt has had the same 10 minutes of comedy since he was in college, and it’s not a very good routine. But his girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) keeps his hopes up.
While Matt is determined to get his comedy career fired up, Abby has other intentions. She wants to get married and have kids. Matt on the other hand cannot see himself getting married.
The idea of marriage slips even further when he finally catches his break doing standup. After getting some tips from a successful comedian, he learned to incorporate more of his life into his jokes. Making them more real and funnier.
The content of his jokes, however, reflected many of the problems in his life. How his relationship is falling apart and his recent sleepwalking episodes. But it gets a great reaction from the crowd so he keeps going with it.
The disconnect between Matt and Abby grows more and more as he is on the road away from reality longer. His sleepwalks get crazier and crazier and more dangerous. His life is crashing down, but he is too afraid to confront his problems.
It isn’t until all goes to shit where he finally does something. But he does the wrong thing. And that proved to be worse for him that it was before.
Most of the movie is pretty good. His jokes are funny, the situations are funnier, but then there is a point where there are no jokes and the drama gets pretty stale. The movie starts to drag its feet through a portion of it that felt longer than it actually was.
I felt he didn’t need to dig deep enough into the issues. The entire movie, Birbiglia’s character was in a constant passive “meh” state. While I get that was his character’s overall basis, it would be nice to see Birbiglia dig down a little deeper.
Despite the depth of his character, he gives a pretty good narrative. Providing funny commentary and even using a couple jokes from his standup routine, he really shines on this element.
Mike Birbiglia’s one-man shows are pretty good. I’ve seen his What I Should Have Said Was Nothing special on Comedy Central and he definitely has a different style of comedy. When he delivers his jokes, it’s more like he is having a conversation with the audience rather than just telling it. That comedy style is expressed in the movie, mostly through his narrative.
Overall, I’d say Sleepwalk With Me is a good directorial debut for comedian Mike Birbiglia, but it doesn’t merit enough to make it great. The comedy was great, but the story dragged and felt only skin deep. I am positive that things can only go up for Birbigs and his next movie. I mean, have Louis CK fans forgot about Pootie Tang?
Sleepwalk With Me – 7.5/10