That’s the beauty of stand-up, though, that an audience readily accepts not mere anecdotes but an exceptionally amusing interpretation of them. As such, we roll with Mike playing Matt as he enjoys the company of long-time partner Abby (Lauren Ambrose); begrudgingly accepts the advice of parents Frank (James Rebhorn) and Linda (Carol Kane); and splits his mounting worries between his relationship, a fledgling funnyman career and a burgeoning sleepwalking disorder.
Is twenty-something uncertainty especially revelatory material? Not necessarily. But Birbiglia’s droll, clumsy delivery works just as well on screen as it does on stage. Better yet, the film (co-written and co-produced by NPR’s Ira Glass, among others) marks his writing and directorial debut, and the extent to which his stand-up improves and his insecurities worsen as Matt begins effectively confessing his worst relationship fears to total strangers, seems to stem from a very real place of ambivalence and ambition. At the risk of shortchanging the entire, perfectly fine supporting cast, the whole endeavor rests (and well) on Birbiglia’s perpetually shrugging shoulders without reeking of other self-consuming vanity projects.
In between gigs and dreams gone equally awry, "Sleepwalk With Me" quietly goes a long way towards rationalizing how, and why, a seemingly shy guy would be compelled to entertain the anonymous masses even as he struggles with one-on-one connection and commitment. Fans of Birbiglia should be easily entertained, and with a little luck, it will only earn this particular loveable neurotic a few more of those. [B]
This is a reprint of our review from SXSW.