Sleepwalk With Me is a movie about Matt Pandamiglio as acted by Mike Birbiglia. Matt Pandamiglio is an aspiring stand up comic who begins to physically act out his dreams while they are occurring. Mike Birbiglia is a stand up comic who has a sleep disorder in which he acts out his dreams while they are occurring. Matt Pandamiglio is not Mike Birbiglia. However, Mike Birbiglia is Matt Pandamiglio. Confused yet?
Mike Birbiglia is a stand up comic who uses his life as the material for his comedy. It turns out that life can be really funny if you look at it from a certain perspective. Mike Birbiglia has that perspective. He has used his life to create stand up routines, a one man off Broadway show, an album, and a book. Now he has used it to make a movie. Except the movie is not about Mike Birbiglia. The movie is about Matt Pandamiglio.
Matt Pandamiglio has many similarities to Mike Birbiglia, but his story is a little different. His story is more condensed than Mike Birbiglia’s story. The general outline is the same, but little details are changed for the sake of fitting everything into one movie.
The movie is about a man who is uncertain about where his life is headed. He is in a long term relationship with a woman named Abby. Everything is going great between them except for the fact that they are not married. They have been together for years, but for some reason never got married. Just because their relationship is seemingly without problems does that mean that they should get married? Matt Pandamiglio is uncertain.
This is when he begins to act out his dreams. At first, he shrugs it off as a one time event, but then he keeps doing it and it starts to get dangerous for him. Meanwhile, he is also starting his stand up career which consists at first mostly of bartending and not so much of doing stand up. Eventually, he gets the chance to travel with his stand up routine. However, this means spending time away from his girlfriend and continuing to ignore the problem with his sleep.
Will Matt’s stand up career ever amount to anything? Will he ever get married to Abby? Will the problems of his sleep be fixed before it’s too late? Most of these questions are answered in the movie. Some can already be guessed by knowing anything about the life of Mike Birbiglia who co-wrote, co-directed, and stars in this movie.
However, this is not a movie about Mike Birbiglia’s life. If you want that then read the book or listen to the album or watch his stand up. This is a story about Matt Pandamiglio and that is where the movie has its faults.
The story in Sleepwalk With Me is told with the same kind of uncertainty that Matt Pandamiglio faces in his life. The movie is unsure whether it wants to be about Matt Pandamiglio or Mike Birbiglia. Mike Birbiglia narrates the movie by talking directly to the audience at various points in the movie. Actually, it is Matt Pandamiglio who is talking to the audience, but it might as well be Mike Birbiglia playing himself as that is the way it feels when watching it. He even references the fact that he made a movie so it blurs the line as to whether he is playing himself or is in character as Matt Pandamiglio.
The story is basically the same as he tells it in his book, also called Sleepwalk With Me, but it is told with much of the content removed due to time constraints. This leads to a lot of material ending up less funny or less poignant than when it is read in his book. The movie feels like a rushed telling of a normally really good story. A lot of the movie feels like it is going to be great, but it never really ends up reaching that status. So many great elements are there, but they never quite get to breathe in a way that makes them really come to life.
Sleepwalk With Me ends when it feels like it. It is a sudden ending that doesn’t offer much closure and leaves the viewer with some ambiguity about the future of Matt Pandamiglio. If this were a movie about Mike Birbiglia we would know where the story was headed and it wouldn’t matter so much that we didn’t see it on screen. However, this is supposed to be about the life of Matt Pandamiglio and it feels like just as we are getting to know him he is suddenly gone from the screen.
In the end, Sleepwalk With Me leaves us with that feeling of uncertainty that plagues both the character of Matt Pandamiglio and the movie itself as it tries to be a fictional story and an adaptation of a book, movie, album, stand up routine, and an off Broadway show that is all based on Mike Birbiglia’s life.