The "SleepWalk with Me" screenplay collaborators included "This American Life" creator Ira Glass, along with Joe Birbiglia (Mike's brother). The movie works largely because on camera, Birbiglia has no skill or interest in bringing the standard-issue comedian's energy to selling his material, or his persona. With a voice that sounds like a lower-key Ray Romano and an amiably disheveled air, the star of "Sleepwalk With Me" plays a version of himself named Matt Pandamiglia. Matt's bump-along progress in the touring stand-up world provides one narrative thread. Another is the pleasant but static eight-year relationship between Matt and his vibrant girlfriend, Abby, played by Lauren Ambrose of "Six Feet Under."
Some expansion problems hinder "Sleepwalk With Me" a bit. However zestily acted by the likes of Carol Kane (as Mom) and James Rebhorn (as Dad, a genial bully, forever trying to control the flow and point of a conversation), some of the family scenes feel padded, routine. Ambrose is so naturally likable she becomes a neon sign reading: This woman deserves better. But Birbiglia knows this, and suspected as much when the real-life equivalent of what we see here was happening.
With a refreshing lack of fake glamour, the film captures what it's like to be an initially unpromising comedian on the road. Birbiglia was sleepwalking through more than one aspect of his existence. Then he woke up and found, paradoxically, he was able to sleep, with a little help from the medical community and a sleeping bag.
Ira Glass will co-host the local Music Box Theatre premiere of "Sleepwalk With Me" this weekend. Next month (Oct. 25-29) Birbiglia brings his new solo show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," to Victory Gardens Theater.
No MPAA rating (some language, mild sexuality and violence)
Running time: 1:30
Opens: Friday at the Music Box Theatre; also available on VOD.