Sleepwalk with Me

For some reason, dreaming kind of freaks me out. I don’t often remember my dreams, but when I do it’s often because I was abruptly woken in the middle of them, and a lot of the time when that happens there’s a brief period of confusion in which I’m not sure what’s real and what was dreamed. On more than one occasion by the time that I’m fully conscious and aware of my surroundings, I’ve found myself out of bed and reacting to something that wasn’t there. The idea that something like this could happen while completely unconscious, and potentially without even any memory of it, is something that I find completely terrifying. And this movie didn’t help me with that fear.

Matt (played by Mike Birbiglia, who also wrote and directed the movie) badly wants to be a stand-up comedian, but so far he’s only managed to get a job as a bartender at a comedy club where he occasionally gets to do a couple of minutes between the real comedians. The couple of times that he’s had any kind of real shot at a brief routine, he’s bombed pretty spectacularly. His father Frank (James Rebhorn) has no confidence in his abilities and is openly hostile about the way he’s throwing away his life, and his mother Linda (Carol Kane) is mainly concerned about when he’s going to marry his longtime girlfriend Abby (Lauren Ambrose) and give her some grandchildren. Abby is about the only one who’s completely behind Matt, but she shares some of Linda’s concerns about their future.

All of this uncertainty about his future creates a bit of tension in Matt, and one night it manifests itself in the form of him acting out a dream. It was fairly benign, with him thinking that the clothes hamper was a jackal, and everyone had a good laugh about it. But when it happened a second time, with him believing he’d won an Olympic medal and then falling off the “award podium”, people started to get concerned and suggest that he go see a doctor. But Matt shrugged it off, hoping that his now burgeoning success would eliminate the tension causing this unusual nighttime behavior.

Sleepwalk with Me is one of those movies that is a joy to watch even when it’s depicting things that aren’t so pleasant. It’s got a lot of great dry humor, including a brief scene with Marc Maron and a frustratingly-short segment in which we hear Mitch Hedberg on the television, and even when the jokes are biting and create an ominous glimpse at unpleasantness to come, you’re still completely on board. Most films portraying characters making obviously-bad choices reach a point at which they become frustrating to watch, but somehow this movie finds a way to avoid that.

It’s a pretty short movie, but it progresses slowly enough that it doesn’t seem to fly by. On the other hand, there’s never a point at which it seems too long. There are a couple of scenes toward the end that could possibly benefit from the injection of a little more comedy, but I’m happy with it just the way it is.