Monday, December 24, 2012


It's hard not to like the comedian and monologist Mike Birbiglia, though I wouldn't be surprised if he totally sets plenty of people off who are rubbed wrong by his child-like innocent doofus act. I've enjoyed his stuff on "This American Life" over the years; grew to like him when he broke bread with Mark Maron on the latter's "WTF" podcast; and then even paid to see his stage show (read: standup act) "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend" a year or two ago. Then I hear that Ira Glass of This American Life made it his personal crusade a couple years ago to get Birbiglia's most renown monologue, "Sleepwalk With Me", about his comic-scary struggles with a sleeping disorder and adult human relationships, made into a film. I marked the calendar, waited until it came onto DVD and streaming after a brief run in the theaters, and then watched it - for you - to see if they pulled it off.

I know people were kind of split on this one. It's certainly a "lite" film, definitely in the quirky-indie-comedy with a dollop-of-romance and a heavy-dose-of-angst camp. When deeper truths are reached, they'll force no epiphany in how you think about your life. But I liked it, more than I think many people did, including my cinematic partner for life, aka my wife, who watched it with me. Essentially it's about an amateur stand-up comedian (who's terrible at what he does) who is also in a long-term, but stagnant live-in relationship with a trusting, patient girlfriend (played by Lauren Ambrose, whom you of course remember for her flaming red ginger hair and for playing Claire on "Six Feet Under"). He - Birbiglia, now transformed into "Matt Pandamiglio" - also has this increasingly disruptive sleepwalking disorder, which causes him to take his sleep-world dreams into the real world, where he acts them out at considering physical expense to himself.

The film moves quickly from one sort-of gag to the next, always charming and suffused with material for guffaws, chortles and even some bellylaughs. Pandamiglio continues to blow every opportunity he's given to settle into life with his girlfriend, but has a deep current of anxiety about it that manifests itself in his crazy sleepwalking events. Yet as he changes his performance approach from stand-up comedy to monologues, he starts experiencing some minor success and an actual paycheck, yet this only ups his existential terror of life and of growing up all the more. It's a short movie and very easily digestible. You might not remember much of it in 2013, but it's sort of the perfect weeknight DVD rental/stream and a solid "B" sort of indie-comedy film, not too cloying and not too dumb but almost just about right.