Gimme Some Oven

{new on dvd} Sleepwalk with Me

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Last spring a couple of my comedy-savvy friends told me I had to go see Sleepwalk with Me at SXSW. A fictionalized account of one man’s real-life struggle with commitment and a rare sleep disorder, Sleepwalk with Me was getting nice reviews but wasn’t on the top of my list. Mike Birbigli-who? I asked. But once I settled in for this sweet comedy, it all came rushing back: Oh, he’s that guy.

If you’ve got comedy-savvy friends, too, you’ve probably been exposed to Mike Birbiglia’s self-depracating and vulnerable brand of storytelling sometime in the past decade. Maybe on Comedy Central , perhaps in his bit parts in Your Sister’s Sister,  Cedar Rapids, or Girls (season 1, episode 2). Or maybe the way I was introduced to him: Mike Birbiglia is a regular on the (best ever) radio show This American Life. I had heard parts of the film’s story before in episode 361: Fear of Sleep. In fact, I remember listening to it while I drove the I-29 stretch from Denver to my sister’s place in Fort Collins, hoping for bad traffic so I could hear the whole thing. (Ira Glass, This American Life‘s fearless leader shares a writing credit on the film, along with co-director Birbiglia, his brother Joe, and co-director Seth Barrish.)

Oh, that guy, you’re saying.

The movie Sleepwalk with Me is the culmination of an entire Sleepwalk with Me universe. There’s the live stand-up CD. There was the one-man off-Broadway award-winning show. There’s the book, Sleepwalk with Me: and Other Painfully True Stories. Which begs the question: Why do we need the movie?

We need the movie because it’s so freakin’ funny and sweet. Unlike previous incarnations, this Sleepwalk with Me gets a glaze of fiction on top of the true story. Mike is Matt Pandamiglio, a comic with the same relationship and sleep-disorder troubles as Mike. But Matt has a sister, not a brother. Timelines are compressed, characters are combined. The plot has the necessary structure to make a feature-length story flow, which is not necessary the structure real-life chooses for itself.

The film is held together with scenes where Mike/Matt looks directly at the camera and comments on the story so far. It’s this affable directness that has propelled Birbiglia’s stand-up career, and it’s what makes this film so approachable and lovable.

gimme five | Sleepwalk with Me

Good for: Fans of ambling and good-hearted relationship dramedies

Invite your: Comedy-connoisseur friend 

Snack on: Candy hearts

Bring your: Best sleepwalking story to share

Skip if: You need explosions (of fire, not laughter) to stay interested in a movie

Any Mike Birbiglia fans out there? Where did you first find him?

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Sarah Magill

Sarah Magill has a full-time movie habit made possible by a day-time greeting card writing gig. She blogs at Gimme Some Film and is learning to write scripts and direct. She tries to balance her screen obsession with trail running, jazz singing, book clubbing, and hanging out with The Best Golden Retriever Ever, Copa.

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