Short Takes: Sleepwalk With Me
(Mike Birbiglia, U.S., 2012)
Written by Violet Lucca
Examining the perpetual adolescence that necessarily accompanies Following Your Dreams in Your Late Twenties, there are many painfully true moments in Sleepwalk with Me: going out of your way to do what you love, doing it for less money than you probably should, and having parents who don’t really understand what you’re so driven to do. However, there’s something ultimately unsatisfying about the experience of listening to stand-up comedian Mike Birbiglia tell the true story of his inability to marry his longtime girlfriend (played by the far-too-hot-to-be-with-him Lauren Ambrose).
Birbiglia’s earnest to-camera addresses on romantic dithering are clearly shooting for Annie Hall (as was his fumbling stage persona earlier in his career). But the film’s structure and its non-girlfriend material are actually more reminiscent of the show Louie, albeit without the brilliant wordplay, arresting stage presence, and acerbic social commentary. That’s not to say there’s only one way to perform or recount the realities of standup comedy, just that the visually and thematically superior take available on cable is far more preferable to watch.
Without much dramatic tension, even for those who haven’t encountered Sleepwalk’s previous iterations (as one-man show, memoir, or episode of This American Life), the pallid comedy can’t really justify yet another story about a manchild who’s unable to grow up—even if he does have a totally quirky disorder like sleepwalking.