When Ira Glass is your producer you aren’t making a blockbuster. That’s alright. Mike Birbiglia knows his story is better told over time in local bars, drinking Yuengling between Passion Pit tracks. The less this sentence makes sense the more you’ll like Sleepwalk with Me.
Mike writes, directs and stars in his own true story about long-term relationships, humble stand-up beginnings and a rare sleep disorder. It’s simply told and owes a lot to Annie Hall. In fact, I started making a list of all the things they have in common and I stopped at number eighteen: You don’t want him to succeed.
The first 17 things were easy. He is an unattractive comedian in New York. He is constantly worried and his abundant self-defeat drags down his singing girlfriend. Mike goes his own direction in Sleepwalk with Me, though, when he concedes to not being worth watching. That’s when I stopped adding to my list.
You don’t have to like Mike. He’s a comedian. He’s used to it. What makes Sleepwalk with Me worth watching his awareness to the issue. He is open and honest as he retells his story directly into the camera (#4 on the afore mentioned list). He shows his regularly scheduled failures and admits they are mostly his fault (#12). Yet he still doesn’t entirely give in to them. He shows flashes of diligence just often enough to make you want to keep listening. Then he jumps out a second-story window.
In fact, his battle with what is eventually diagnosed as REM behavior disorder are some of the funnier parts of the movie. He integrates them well visually, supporting his unique style of story telling. He shows you what he hopes you are picturing while he does his stand-up routine.
This perspective becomes a prevalent one. Mike is in almost every scene and is always talking. It’s clear he is most comfortable in his own head and with his perspective alone. His other characters are one dimensional and are portrayed as Mike sees them (#14). Mike is selfish (#6) but shines knowing you’ve paid to listen anyway.
Sleepwalk with Me is not for Michael Bay, Coors Light, Coldplay people. Mike’s story is too personal. Too absurd. It’s a unique story you want the honor of telling to your friends for the first time. It’s worth protecting, sharing carefully with people who will appreciate it like we do so often with our craft beers, our local pubs and the newest unknown acoustic techno duo from Sweden.