Sleep­walk with Me

Turns one man’s tragedy into a crowd-pleas­ing com­edy, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

UCH of the best com­edy de­rives from per­sonal pain and comic turned film­maker Mike Bir­biglia deftly trans­poses his stand-up rou­tine to the big screen in Sleep­walk with Me.

As a great comic el­der once said: ‘‘A re­la­tion­ship is like a shark. Ei­ther it moves for­ward or it dies’’.

That’s what long-term re­la­tion­ship cou­ple Matt (Bir­biglia) and Abby (Lau­ren Am­brose) have on their hands. He’s a comic and bar­tender with, at most, 11 min­utes of tol­er­a­ble ma­te­rial. She sees them as a mar­ried cou­ple, but she doesn’t want to con­front her com­mit­ment-pho­bic part­ner.

Matt’s small-club rou­tine is stale un­til he stum­bles into telling his own re­la­tion­ship woes: the au­di­ence howls, and he ex­pands his act. Now, he ac­tu­ally plays to ap­pre­cia­tive crowds, but the home front is not amused.

His con­trol­ling, physi­cian dad (James Reb­horn) wants him to con­front a se­ri­ous sleep dis­or­der and get on with life, while his dither­ing mother (Carol Kane) pushes the mar­riage pro­gram.

Bir­biglia’s deft, breezy treat­ment of a se­ri­ous re­la­tion­ship dis­or­der, as well as a se­ri­ous neu­ro­log­i­cal sleep­ing prob­lem, gels won­der­fully. The com­edy per­co­lates in large part be­cause of the like­able lead per­for­mances of Bir­biglia, whose easy self-dep­re­cat­ing ways over­coats Matt’s char­ac­ter flaws.

As his stead­fast part­ner, Am­brose is a zesty an­ti­dote, who swal­lows her pain with perky re­solve.

The par­ents are a hi­lar­ity: Carol Kane is a hoot as Matt’s nat­ter­ing mother and Reb­horn is amus­ingly can­tan­ker­ous as the dom­i­neer­ing dad.

Credit to co-writ­ers Bir­biglia and Ira Glass for the frothy dis­til­la­tion of one man’s pain. Bir­biglia and co-di­rec­tor Seth Bar­rish keep the com­edy from tilt­ing into pathos, while main­tain­ing a steady hand on the com­plex re­la­tion­ship is­sues, which in­spire the mirth.

The tech­ni­cal con­tri­bu­tions are tops, from ed­i­tor Ge­of­frey Rich­man’s in­vig­o­rat­ing pace to cin­e­matog­ra­pher Adam Beck­man’s comic eye for fram­ing. Credit cos­tume de­signer Ciera Wells for Matt’s apt, hang-dog duds.

Sleep­walk with Me opens to­day.

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