Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sleepwalk with Me

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. I am just sharing my opinions and perspective. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 1-5. 1, of course, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being good and 5, being epic!

Sleepwalk with Me – 5 out of 5

Pictured:  Not me telling jokes on stage.
I’m a pretty big fan of Mike Birbiglia. He’s one of those comedians that keep me inspired to keep getting on stage and make jokes about how I’ve done a striptease to the Pokémon theme. I took a chance on him years ago in 2006 and purchased his first CD Two Drink Mike on a whim without ever hearing his unique brand of socially awkward comedy and instantly enjoyed him. Over the years I paid attention to his career and watched him murder crowds... with jokes. He quickly became one of those comics that keeps me from quitting the stand up circuit—every time I get tired of certain cities booking the same 10 comics for every one of its shows or the mysterious egos from comics who can only make their friends laugh (and usually out of pity) or dealing with the sad reality that some comics who aren’t funny and can work the crowd into a frenzy because they said “motherfucker” three times and never once actually utters a joke that has a setup and a punch line; whenever this happens, I just turn to Birbiglia or Louis CK or Patton Oswalt or Jim Gaffigan and I hear them and see how perfectly they have molded their craft and I suddenly feel re-energized to get back on stage and talk about how I love Dungeons & Dragons more than sex.

Pictured:  Also not me telling jokes on stage.  Let's not make this review about me
and how awesome of a person I am.  Also I'm humble.  A lot more humble than you.

Sleepwalk with Me is based on the true stories of comedian Mike Birbiglia as he struggles to make a name for himself on stage, deal with the troubles of his relationship with his girlfriend and the fact he has a sleeping disorder that causes him to sleepwalk and act out his dreams. Birbiglia originally made this true story into an off-Broadway show that was met with great success and later turned into a book that was also met with critical acclaim. The film fictionalizes Birbiglia’s story as the comedian plays Matt Pandamiglio who breaks the fourth wall and speaks directly to the audience as his story plays out before you. We see his struggle with commitment with his girlfriend; Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and the fact he openly denies he has a sleeping disorder—a disorder that eventually led to him jumping out of a 2nd story window while sleeping (and that shit really happened!).  I thought the fact that in my dreams when I fell down and my whole body spasms me awake was bad but I never jumped out of a window.

I know he's breaking the fourth wall but is he talking to us or about to make
a pass at us?

Sleepwalk with Me is a profoundly insightful, extremely amusing and, most of all, an amazingly heart-touching story. Birbiglia opens himself up and exposes his faults in only a way a comedian would be willingly to do. And the downright artistry of the film and brilliant execution comes not just from the story as Birbiglia opens up his tragedy for us to laugh at and feel for him and his struggle but the film’s overall presentation is nothing short of amazing and looks better than a majority of the crap that is pushed into our local cinemas week after week.

At least he sleeps in pajama pants...so it could be A LOT worse for someone
catching him sleepwalking.

The film, on the surface, looks and feels like your run-of-the-mill indie film that should probably star Zach Braff (if Braff was actually a draw anymore) and has an overemphasis on its soundtrack filled with shitty indie hipster rockers that probably populate Braff’s iPod. However, unlike an indie film, Sleepwalk with Me isn’t filled with a pretentious fog populating every second of the film and music isn’t even a consideration in this one. It also helps that the film isn’t about whiney white 30 years olds not ready for the real world and actually comes off as a realistic portrayal of a man with real problems and not insanely specific problems of potential Apple fanboys who read a philosophy book once and now think they know what constitutes an existential crisis (#hipsterproblems). The outer layer of Birbiglia’s film looks like it will be a walking cliché of the indie circuit films but proves to be far more creative than that and far more emotional.

If this was an indie film, this shot would be accompanied by an acoustic jam
and a long montage of walking around a park and/or beach looking very forlorn.

Marc Maron looks like he could learn any talent by just
looking at the object that is usually associated with said
Maybe I’m biased because I’m a big fan of Birbiglia’s comedy (How big? Currently Mike is taking out a restraining order on me—which is total B.S. if you ask me. I was taking a sample of his hair during one of his sleepwalking episodes so I could build a clone of him. It’s not like I was doing anything weird with it.) but unlike Fox News, I’ll admit I’m biased. I was a big fan of Birbiglia’s work going into the film adaptation of his show/book/real-life story and the end result was beyond my expectations. I expect to be entertained and laugh but I wasn’t prepared for the deep emotion that ran through the entire length of the feature nor was I prepared for how well Birbiglia was going to be as a director and perfectly showcasing the hardships he dealt with as he tried to deny his issues. 

There's no denying though that Birbiglia looks like Matt Damon here.

Can any of us truly trust him after the Independence Dayfiasco?
The build up alone to Mike leaping out of the window and how he shows the overwhelming frustrations as his parents (played by James Rebhorn and Carol Kane) badger him for treatment, the future of his relationship with Abby and his dealings and exhaustion from building a comedy career and endless hours on the road is just excellent filmmaking. The camera, steadily in front of Birbiglia, focuses on him as he checks-in to the hotel, gets in the elevator and makes his way to the room while the cacophony of his parents yelling at him over his cell phone builds to the point it is even overwhelming to the viewer. All this comes together to amazingly show the difficulties Birbiglia’s character and real-life persona dealt with and the untold pressure he unwittingly placed upon himself. Add to the fact that Birbiglia gives a strong performance (as himself basically) and cameos from great comedians like Kristen Schaal, David Wain, Marc Maron and Henry Phillips (to name a few) and you have all the ingredients for something truly meaningful, special and outright amazing.

I couldn't figure out any other way to hyperlink my review of Henry Phillip's
Punching the Clown

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