Sundance – Sleep Walk with Me
A few years back, my BFF went through a pretty serious breakup. Before the couple’s demise, they purchased tickets to go see Dane Cook in Las Vegas. My buddy got custody of these tickets, and I ended replacing her on the trip. In our defense, I’d like to point out that Dane Cook was the ex’s favorite comedian. On the five-hour drive to Vegas, he popped in Mike Birbiglia’s Two Drink Mike, and I was hooked. It was better than the Dane Cook show. Admittedly, that’s probably not hard to do, but Two Drink Mike was hilarious. Birbiglia released several more comedy albums, and I loved them all. So, imagine my surprise when I realize right in the middle of Sundance, that he had a movie there. Not only that, he co-wrote it with Ira Glass, my very favorite NPR host. If you ever listen to This American Life, you’ve probably heard Birbiglia on there several times. Birbig’s was tweeting he would be at the showing in a few hours from the moment I found out about the movie at all! My excitement was palpable, I quickly called my BFF and we wait-listed that bitch like a boss. Despite being super sold out, we both got tickets from scalpers at the last-minute.
The name Sleep Walk with Me refers to many things, my favorite is a terrible sleep disorder that the comedian has. Once he dreamt he his hotel room was the target of a missile attack, so he jumped out of the second story window in his dream, and in real life, something we get to witness acted out on the film. Now he has to take a strong sleeping pill and be zipped up in a sleeping bag while wearing mittens so he can’t unzip the bag in the night. Sleep Walk tells the story of a long, but doomed relationship with his college girlfriend (played by Six Feet Under‘s Lauren Ambrose), the terrible idea of his proposal to her, and meanwhile, the establishment of his beginning career in the comedy world.
Birbiglia’s stand up is self-deprecating, honest, and charming. He manages to take what may seem simple and mundane, and make it seem wildly entertaining. There are often even serious notes of sadness (this is heard most often when he appears on The Moth Radio Hour). All of this is seen in the film, and done well. Where Birbiglia may tend to go away from a chronological narrative, it seems Ira Glass was right there to put it all into place, and it did feel slightly episodic, like a film version of an episode of This American Life. Birbiglia even has some acting talent. My one complaint, and this may not even be a valid one, is that I was so familiar with all of his work, that there wasn’t anything really new. I had heard the jokes, and the stories, I knew exactly what happened when he jumped out of that window. In this aspect, it was a bit disappointing, but I ate it up anyway.