Review: Sleepwalk With Me (The movie not the book, radio story or video game)

SPOILER ALERT: I discuss the content of a movie based on a one man show based on a book based on a radio story first told at the Moth some 5-6 years ago. You’ve been warned.

The little red haired girl and I finally got a chance to see Sleepwalk With Me this weekend (I’d been begging her to go for a week or two and somehow managed to convince her to come down to Ohio State on a Friday night with me. She loves me šŸ˜‰ ) Now, full disclosure, I am if not in the target demographic for this movie, at least demo-adjacent. We both got a kick out of the twenty or so other people going to see this movie, guys with beards and glasses, and girls with glasses (if you have seen Portlandia then you know the type). I have discovered my tribe.

But anyway, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Sleepwalk With Me is based on the very real story of comedian Mike Birbliglia’s struggles with REM Behavior Disorder, a sleep disorder which causes him to act out his dreams, dreams which involve running from wild animals or guided missiles. But the real story is how he and his then girlfriend discover that they’re really not right for each other.

The movie is peppered with Birbiglia’s Mitch Hedburg inspired musings, andĀ embarrassingĀ personal stories. Birbiglia starts the movie off by asking you to turn off your cell phone and listen to his true story. Is it true? Yeah. Is it? Uh…YEAH!

They had changed Mike Birbiglia’s name to Matt Pandapiglio (not sure about spelling), which was largely unnecessary and maybe even a little distracting, since it clearly is biographical material. The dream sequences felt very real, and not the Hollywood dreaminess, but just what would happen if you were winning an Olympic event for dust-bustering. The climatic scene where he jumps out of a second story window at a La Quinta inn is exactly how I would have pictured it (down to the selection of Lutz from 30 Rock as the guy at the front desk). Still, the story is not really comedic, and would probably be characterized by most as an art film story of the end of a relationship.

Again I’m not sure if I’m an unbiased source, having been very familiar with the material (and a fan of This American Life, Ira Glass and Birbiglia for a long time). If I had seen the Hunger Games without reading the book I would have had no idea what was going on in spots. With this movie it’s not that things were left outĀ per-say, but there wasn’t as much NEW as I would have expected. And the movie ends on a slightly more depressing note than I know Mike’s life does in reality. He is now happily married to someone else, and the story of how he made that decision could be a movie all its own (sequel?) JK.

I was delighted by the casting of all the secondary characters including Ira Glass as a photographer, and Wyatt Cenac as another struggling comedian (and not the only Daily Show or 30 Rock veteran in the cast). While many of the jokes weren’t exactly new to me, they were told in a way I had never experienced them (and frankly though this is ubiquitous in some circles, most of you have probably never heard this story).

In short, go see this while you can, or at least Netflix it. You won’t be disappointed.

If you do want to see it in a theater here are listings (only 1 in Columbus, Gateway 8).

Here’s the original radio story.

And the book.

And an interview with Ira and Mike on Fresh Air.

And yes, I am an NPR junkie.

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