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Saturday, 15 September 2012 21:42

'Sleepwalk with Me' gets too dreamy

AP Photo/IFC Films, Adam Beckman AP Photo/IFC Films, Adam Beckman from left, Mike Birbiglia as Matt Pandamiglio, Danny Borbon as Tommy, and Amanda Perez as Tammy are shown in a scene from director Mike Birbiglia's "Sleepwalk With Me."
Written by Diane Carson
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Promoted on NPR by co-writer Ira Glass, Sleepwalk with Me sports the same somewhat quirky sense of humor about slightly offbeat, appealing characters as Glass's This American Life. In the film's case, the central individual is another of the co-writers, Mike Birbiglia who plays Matt Pandamiglio, a parallel universe version of himself.

Mike is also known from his monologues on This American Life. The third of the four co-writers, Joe Birbiglia, joins Seth Barrish, the fourth writer who also co-directed with Mike Birbiglia. Those who find these convoluted connections appealing will probably also like the slight but sweet story. At its heart is Matt, commitment averse, in a long relationship with girlfriend Abby, a fine Lauren Ambrose. Once they reside together, nudged as they are toward marriage, Matt's neurosis exhibits itself in his erratic sleepwalking, even through a window.

In his waking hours, Matt desperately wants to succeed as a stand-up comedian, but has paltry little material until he starts using his real life experiences and expressing his deep-seated feelings, resentment included. Then he connects with his audiences, and soon is putting miles on the car traveling from one gig to another.

Only serviceably shot and edited, Sleepwalk with Me relies on Matt's romantic struggles to carry the film. They do but barely, as with so many recent romance-driven films of vulnerability-phobic thirty-something boy-men. The formula usually includes a late-20s, early-30s man and a woman at cross-purposes, perplexed more by internal than external hurdles. She's more mature, even more interesting, while the plot works to probe and, with humorous stops along the way, push past the psychological difficulties and emotional blocks.

Sleepwalk with Me hits these familiar notes with a cheery resolve to make progress. Helping and hurting, Matt's mother and father have their own agendas. As played by James Rebhorn and Carol Kane, they offer solid support to Mike Birbiglia's appealing persona. But since the film foregrounds the endlessly complex dynamics of human interaction, greater development of all the relationships would have lifted the story above the pedestrian appeal of a cutesy concept. Still it's churlish to object too much to a film that amuses with its gentle humor. And Sleepwalk with Me surely does that. At a Landmark Theatre.

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