Early in Sleepwalk with Me, protagonist Matt Pandamiglio (comedian Mike Birbiglia, more or less playing himself) addresses via narration the feelings his character holds for his live-in girlfriend, Abby (Lauren Ambrose, Wanderlust) with the lines, “I think falling in love for the first time is such a transcendent feeling. It’s like pizza-flavored ice cream: Your brain can’t even process that level of joy.”
Maybe you have to be there — and you should — but I felt the same giddiness throughout most of the comedy, based on Birbiglia’s one-man off-Broadway show and subsequent book, both based on a real-life experience. Between Friday and Sept. 27, moviegoers have seven chances to see Sleepwalk on the big screen at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
A full-time bartender/worrywart, Matt has a lot on his plate — namely, three big helpings of:
1. his serious and loving relationship with the absolutely adorable Abby, with whom he is reluctant to take the next step of marriage;
2. a burgeoning career in stand-up comedy … if hosting a college lip-synch contest could be considered progress; and finally,
his sleep disorder. The latter begins innocently enough as humorous
instances of sleepwalking, such as mistaking a hamper for a wild animal
(“There’s a jackal in the room!”), before they manifest into events that
could be life-threatening. Of course, he’s too busy booking five-minute
comedy gigs to visit a doctor.
story is true, as Birbiglia assures the audience in a prologue that
breaks the fourth wall (and contains the single best “turn off your
phone” reminder cinema has seen to date), and its honesty — however
embarrassing it must be to our storyteller — makes Sleepwalk so refreshing.
So does the film’s storytelling.
Birbiglia has co-written the Oscarworthy screenplay with three others, including Ira Glass, host of public radio’s popular This American Life, to which Birbiglia is a regular contributor. The
film unfolds in a similar manner: strong characters, well-tempered
quirks, grounded situations that carry both the humor and the heartbreak
of real life.
comic’s years of experience behind the mic translate to total comfort in
front of the camera, so there’s no awkwardness to Birbiglia’s
performance. He’s a wonderful, instantly likable presence; even when
riffing on killing babies, he projects complete innocence.
great thing is that he’s just as assured behind the camera, as he’s
making his directorial debut here. Remarkably, it is one without