I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Sleepwalk With Me (2012)
What’s it rated? Rated PG-13 for the unintended consequences of sleepwalking, dysfunctional relationships viewed through dysfunctional minds and Mike Birbiglia’s inability to speak from his diaphragm.
Did people make it? Written and directed by Mike Birbiglia. Acted by Mike Birbiglia, Lauren Ambrose, James Rebhorn, Carol Kane, Cristin Milioti, Aya Cash, Loudon Wainwright III, Kristen Schaal, Wyatt Cenac, Ira Glass, Marc Maron, David Wain and Emily Meade.
What’s it like in one sentence? It’s about a confused and flighty young man who, while struggling to become a stand-up comedian, also must contend with a bad case of sleepwalking and his fear of commitment.
Why did you watch it? WeAreLegion recommended it and the entire town I live in is obsessed with it.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Mike Birbiglia plays Matt Pandamiglio, a bartender trying to become a stand-up comedian. He gets to introduce comics some nights and every once and awhile he’s allowed to do his own 10 minute set. One of his (myriad of) problems is that some nights he sleepwalks and basically acts out his dreams as he’s having them. His nights are getting worse and worse and, as his incredibly supportive girlfriend Abby starts hinting about marriage and his commitment issues get more pronounced, he’s not getting good sleep anytime soon.
Play or remove from my queue? I would play it. It’s a likable film with some cute performances and a few great laugh out loud moments, but for the second week in a row I wasn’t feeling the romance in my selected film. The relationship subplot doesn’t feel as shoehorned in here as it did in Sound of Noise, but no time is given to it, either. Matt and Abby have been together for 8 years and all evidence shows that she is loving and supporting and that he is happy being with her. As soon as she brings up marriage, though, he’s like a rat in a sinking ship, desperate to find a way out the relationship, but lacking the spine to actually say anything about it. If the audience had time to see some of the marriage doubts get planted or, at the very least, see some cracks in the facade of their relationship it would have gone a long way to understanding Matt’s mind set. He talks about his fear of marriage plenty in his stand-up set, but it only illustrates his feelings that marriage means quitting going after what you want in life instead of giving us a sense of why the word frightens him so much when they’ve already been together for almost a decade. Hey guy, you’re already pretty much married, making it official isn’t going to change the dynamic after 8 years. He’s not a commitment-phobe, he’s just a marriage-phobe, I guess.
Birbiglia’s role is an interesting and sometimes inconsistent one. He’s very soft spoken, yet constantly shoots out some abrasive little barbs at people who don’t deserve them. It’s like he walked off the set of a Comedy Central roast and is preparing to audition for Peter Sellars’ role in Being There. Matt is a very flawed guy and the film makes the mistake of assuming that because he’s pretty pathetic, has borderline dangerous sleepwalking issues and consistently dies doing his stand-up that we should be rooting for him. Him being pathetic and kind of a dick is great and people should make more movies with that kind of character as the lead (especially the lead in a film about stand-up comedy), but Sleepwalk With Me can’t commit to having that much focus.
Watching Matt’s stream of consciousness sleepwalking adventures are great and unlike anything I can remember ever seeing in a film. Those scenes perfectly captures the bizarre nature of the things that pop into your brain when your body is in off-mode. I used to wake up in different places after I went to bed, so anything that explores the idea of sleepwalking fascinates me to no end. What also rubs my thought bone are films about the inner mind of people that put themselves out there so nakedly and fearlessly in order to be a comedian. Many of my friends are comics, so I love anything that can get me deeper into their mindset. When Sleepwalk With Me focuses on the sleepwalking and the comedy it’s running on all cylinders, but the movie spends so much time wallowing in a pointless romance that it constantly loses the thread of what makes itself special.
Do you have a favorite line? I loved Birbiglia talking to the camera talking about meeting someone special and laying out this gem: “ I really feel like our whole lives, no matter how low our self esteem gets, there’s a part of us that thinks, ‘I have a secret, special skill that no one knows about.’ And, eventually, we meet someone who’s like, ‘You have a secret, special skill.’ And you’re like, ‘I know! So do you!’ And that’s love.”
How’s the music? The score is by Andrew Hollander of Waitress and… Labor Pains fame and I can honestly say that I never even noticed it once. It’s inoffensive, I’m assuming.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Lbs. (life affirming weight loss movie), Surrogate Valentine (looks interesting), Sympathy for Delicious (Directed by Mark Ruffalo!), Skateland (the trailer aggravates me) and Come Fly With Me (I think I’m down with a British Airport sitcom).
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? A non-critic friend of mine Skyped with Mike Birbiglia and Ira Glass about the movie and had a really cool conversation with them. She was in her pajamas. That’s…all I got.
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Watch Napoleon Dynamite and Birbiglia’s stand-up simultaneously and on multiple televisions.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.3
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.6
Can you link to the movie? That seems fair.
Any last thoughts? I know I’m pretty hard on the movie, but it is a breezy 80 minute exercise in charm that’s worth your time, if only to marvel at how lucky you are not to have serious sleepwalking issues. The stand-up stuff, while fun to watch, isn’t really given enough time to become an incisive look into the career at all. As the film starts, Birbiglia’s character writes bad material AND delivers it poorly. Once he writes some autobiographical stuff that connects with an audience, he’s instantly delivering it like a seasoned comedy pro. That’s a transition I would have loved to see.
Did you watch anything else this week? I’m 8 episodes deep onto House of Cards and I shan’t be stopping. Ever. Vicious, pulpy and hilarious in equal turns with Spacey’s finest work since John Doe and Verbal Kint.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Sound of Noise? Last week I raised the question of why the detective couldn’t hear anything the percussionists played their symphony on. Chewer RelaxingDragon dropped this bit of knowledge: “The theory I’ve always been running with in regards to the detective losing his hearing is the idea of how the movie is all about finding that perfect music for everyone from anywhere and everywhere. We’ve got the drummers doing their non-instrument things, we’ve got the regular people enjoying their classical music (the drummers mock this, but the people really do love what they’re hearing), and eventually we get the detective and silence. The drummers come up with that new musical score that can unlock the perfect sounds for the right people, as it were (in this case, the non-normal people). So for them, they hear the amazement of music from everyday objects, and he hears the beauty in nothing at all.” Can’t really argue with that. Excellent insight, Dragon. Thanks for expanding my brain.
Next Week? Interzone!!