As a longtime fan of Mike Birbiglia’s storyteller style of comedy, I was happy that his brand of humor was making it to the big screen. While some of the plot was familiar to me from his stand-up, I thought they found a great way to tell his stories cinematically. If this is a taste of what the future holds for Birbiglia, I could see him becoming a kind of Woody Allen of his generation, telling the stories he wants to tell the way he wants to tell them. He has a great way of making you like him even when he admits you probably shouldn’t.
Matt (Birbiglia) is a struggling comic who has been with girlfriend Abbey (Lauren Ambrose) eight years when his sister’s upcoming marriage amps up the pressure for him to show his commitment. Matt hasn’t considered marriage and assumed Abbey felt the same, but he quickly learns she is dreaming of marriage and children. As he stalls for time with Abbey, his career starts to pick up. He finds an agent and makes it clear he’ll take any job out there. While on the road, he learns that he doesn’t need to write jokes, and should instead be honest about his feelings on marriage and relationships. The stress of his relationship and life on the road causes Matt to sleepwalk. He writes off these potentially dangerous encounters until he almost kills himself by jumping out a hotel window.
This film is apparently hitting some people a little too close to home. Producer Ira Glass admitted some are seeing a little too much of themselves in the protagonists and breaking up. Their plight is a familiar one. While the two don’t have major problems to propel them to break-up, they want different things from life so in order to stay together someone would have to make a compromise they might regret later. Everyone knows a couple like this, two perfectly nice people who have just been together longer than they should. This film also shows a great example of what physical distance can do to the couple, as Matt and Abbey start to build their own lives in the other’s absence.
This film is also a great look at the life of a stand-up comic in a way we haven’t really seen before. Matt has to start at the bottom, playing mostly empty rooms. In the beginning he’s spending more money to get to the shows, than he’s making at them, but as time passes he grows as a comic and learns more about his craft as he goes along. This is not a romantic look at the world of comedy and could make any aspiring comedian think twice about life on the road. However, those who are familiar with the world of stand-up, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a number of familiar faces.
If you’re a fan of Birbiglia’s work, you’ll enjoy Sleepwalk With Me. If you don’t know who he is, be warned, this film is very indy and way be too slow-paced for some.