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Sleepwalk With Me

“Sleepwalk With Me” found success in various formats: before it was a film, it was a critically praised off-Broadway show, then an almost-best-selling memoir.  Somewhere in the transition to a movie, it must have lost something, because what a personality-less bore it is on the screen.

It’s written, directed and starring Mike Birbiglia, a comic who has contributed several episodes to the NPR radio show “This American Life.”   It’s about his (American) life, and in some ways it’s a daring project, as he does nothing at all to make himself seem likable, clever or charming in any way whatsoever.   This is the film’s biggest problem: for everything else to work, I need to like the main character, and I really don’t.

Lauren Ambrose plays his girlfriend of many years, and brings a sort of quiet desperation to the role;  she comes across as a woman who started dating him with fierce belief in who he would become, but after years of him never showing any signs of becoming anything, she’s not sure what to do.

Birbiglia has a sleepwalking disorder, and a comedy “career” that’s not going anywhere, and your typical fears about marriage and anything involved with becoming a real, responsible adult.  Eventually he starts using his sleepwalking incidents and his fear of marriage to inform his comedy, and his career takes off.  But an awful lot of the film is devoted to the days before he was funny, and watching a guy be not funny on stage is, well, not all that funny.

It’s a benign little film.  The ways it fails aren’t offensive or annoying.  Like Birbiglia, it just never gives me a reason to like it, and in the end, we part ways with a feeling that I’ve wasted more time on “Sleepwalk With Me” than I should have.  I guess now I know how his girlfriend feels.

Verdict: Not Recommended  

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