As long as there are teenagers and sentimental directors, the coming-of-age movie will never die, but here’s something fresh—the coming-of-funny film. Matt (writer-director Mike Birbiglia, dramatizing an autobiographical monologue) is a lackadaisical stand-up comedian, plying stale jokes about Cookie Monster to unresponsive Brooklyn audiences. One thing in his life is perfect: Abby (Lauren Ambrose, likable), a doting, devoted girlfriend of eight years whom he somehow can’t satisfy with the big proposal. When, in a moment of desperation, Matt’s routine slides into ingratitude—Abby is the absent target—and the crowd loves it, he begins his career ascent at a serious romantic cost.
If that sounds mean-spirited, you’re perceptive (and a sweetheart), yet Sleepwalk with Me embraces its toughness and emerges with a sharp comment about evasion. (Birbiglia launched his story on NPR’s This American Life—Ira Glass is a producer—and his tale has a similar wryness.) Continually, the narrative stops in its tracks at savage sights: an agent eating popcorn out of a carelessly curled headshot; our hero committing backseat infidelity even after he placates Abby with the words she wants to hear. It’s a comedy about the unchecked id; indeed, there’s sleepwalking in it. But will those grunting strolls happen through a second-story window or on the highway? You’re left cringing, and that puts Birbiglia in excellent company, alone though he might be in bed.
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