As if to acknowledge that fact, the comedian opens his movie by talking directly to us in the audience. This simple ploy wins us over right away and establishes Birbiglia’s self-effacing persona. As the story proper begins, we meet his parents (Carol Kane and James Rebhorn) and girlfriend (Lauren Ambrose), and we cover somewhat familiar ground. But when he begins to deal with his nascent career, the film finds its real strength. Birbiglia illustrates, in vivid detail, how an inexperienced stand-up comic learns important lessons playing a variety of dumps and dives “on the road.” He’s terrible, at first, but still manages to get gigs—the first truism of show business at the bottom rung of the ladder. The more he dispenses with jokes and draws on his life experiences, the more audiences respond to him. The only problem is that this success takes a toll on his relationship with Ambrose, while his sleepwalking crises physically drain him. Something is bound to give.
Sleepwalk With Me is modest but consistently likable. I look forward to seeing what Mike Birbiglia will try next, especially if he conceives his next film from scratch
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