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Sleepwalk With Me | Blu-ray Review

Sleepwalk with Me blu-ray coverMarking a potentially monumental pivot point in his already eclectic career, stand-up comedian turned actor/director/producer/screenwriter Mike Birbiglia has taken his personal tale of failed relationships, comedic development, and serious sleep disorders from the stage to the page and finally to the big screen. The conversion between mediums is flawless, gaining a variety of story expanding tricks this time around that can only come with the visual format. Sleepwalk With Me, winner of the Audience Award at Sundance last year, aches with the anxieties of long term relationship commitment and the struggles of a fledgling comedian while Birbiglia wittily breaks character to orate his tale directly to the audience a la Woody Allen in Annie Hall.

In order to avoid misrepresentation of the people in his life, Birbiglia’s story has been marginally fictionalized. Mike is now Matt , but they are one and the same. To everyone but him, his relationship of eight years seems bound for marriage, but once he decides to hit the road with his developing comic set, it becomes quite clear that his heart is elsewhere. Meanwhile, his strange habit of acting out his dreams while still asleep is becoming increasingly more dangerous.

Matt speaks plainly to the audience with the hindsight of a regretful entertainer who knows all too well the mistakes he’s made, but it is in these moments of humiliation that the heartache is replaced with humor. While his relationship going sour and his unconscious mental instability are obvious sore spots, he converts them into entertaining truth based stories laced with intelligent, relate-able observations. His journey to self realization was lined with red flags, but his decision to turn a blind eye in favor of comfort left quite a tale to tell.

The story is populated by a wonderful cast, particularly the immediately personable Lauren Ambrose as Abby, Matt’s long time girlfriend. Birbiglia has brought in fellow comics to play in his fictionalized clubs, as well as Carol Kane and James Rebhorn to play his neurotic parents. Writer and producer Ira Glass even makes an appearance as a meticulous wedding photographer. Despite all of the real life comedians aboard, the film feels completely natural and alive. Birbiglia’s debut pulls from his experiences on stage and the relationships he’s made within the business while acknowledging those who influenced him. Marc Maron, a man known for his blunt honesty and searing wit plays a veteran comic with career altering advice, and at one point, a clip of the late, great Mitch Hedberg plays in the background of one scene as a nod to Mike’s deceased friend. The comedy scene found on screen is portrayed with an authenticity only a working comic or touring musician could fully appreciate.

Sleepwalk With Me is a startling debut that takes Birbiglia’s already successful stage production and presents it to larger audiences than a limited run off-Broadway show could ever provide. Mike has a knack for finding the comedic in everyday experience, and he captures that ability with confidence and grace, and pairs it with his absurd, yet genuine dream sequences that bring a slight air of worry despite their obvious humor. He’s touring with his new stage production with My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend, a story that, with any luck, could potentially become Birbiglia’s sophomore feature that proves this isn’t just a successful one time fluke.

The Disc:

MPI Media Group and IFC Films picked up a few Sundance films this year, this being the best of the bunch. The transfer looks wonderful, with strong, naturalistic colors throughout (the field dream sequences are an exception of naturalism, though they look great as well). There are plenty of close-ups, as in the monologue sequences where fine detail in skin and hair can be detected. With a DTS-HD 5.1 master track bringing in the audio with warm, crisp dialogue and Andrew Hollander’s fittingly light soundtrack, the film isn’t pushy in its soundstage. It’s just right. Like most MPI Releases, the disc comes in a standard Blu-ray case.

Making Of
With interviews and clips taken from on set during production, Birbiglia, Ira Glass, assistant director Seth Barrish, several of the films producers and many of the actors speak about how the creation of the film is going, how they are working with each other and how Mike is doing as a first time filmmaker doing so many jobs at once. Unlike many featurettes running about the same length (14 min), this one has a very wide range of faces imparting their take on the situation, and thanks to Birbiglia’s warm sense of humor, it is both informative and funny.

It’s a brief three scenes, but the key is this – there is too much sauce.

Q&A with Ira Glass and Mike Birbiglia moderated by Joss Whedon at the Writers Guild Foundation
Bringing together faux internet enemies, the trio discuss the film after a screening. Being that it took place at the Writers Guild Foundation, much of the conversation revolves around the film’s structure and how doing test screenings helped Birbiglia and Glass to create laughs and empathy where there seemed to be none. It runs about 34 minutes, cutting off where audience questions presumably began. There is one brief moment when video cuts out to color bars, but it’s back in a second.

Behind the Scenes Shorts
Looking like five promotional shorts to amp up internet awareness about the film’s production, these bits are basically additional pieces that didn’t make it into the ‘making of’ featurette.

Theatrical Trailer
With thunderous critical quotes and well edited sequences, this trailer gives an excellent intro to the characters as well as the film’s multi-faceted nature in a fading relationship and a budding comedy career. Wonderful.

Final Thoughts:

Birbiglia’s intimate debut is a laugh-out-loud funny tale that speaks to the career minded, unromantic lovers the world over, and it does so with heartache and a rare sleep disorder as its focal point. MPI and IFC’s release not only presents the film with grace, but packs plenty of worthy extras for those looking to sleepwalk a little longer. If you’ve seen or heard Birbiglia on stage, you have somewhat of an idea of what you are in for here, but those new to the comic, you are in for an authentic comedic treat.


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