I’ve been following Mike Birbiglia’s work for a few years now, which means I’ve heard this story several times before. Sleepwalk With Me had its origins in his stand-up act, which morphed into a one-man show, which became a book, which has now been adapted into a film. It’s a good story deserving of all these media, but it is still best told onstage with a microphone.
Birbiglia is a gifted storyteller, heartfelt and free of cynicism, and the chops he honed over years on the brutal comedy circuit turned his one-man show into a prime specimen of the form. He hasn’t had the same kind of experience with literature or film, and so those endeavors haven’t yet reached the high bar set by his achievements on the stage. As a film, Sleepwalk With Me does a good job of bringing a familiar story to life in a new way, and Birbiglia’s talent with non-linear storytelling translates well to some clever editing. But it is telling that its most electric moments are those which depict him addressing an audience from a stage.
Now that Sleepwalk With Me appears to have reached its logical conclusion, I’m looking forward to hearing what other stories Birbiglia has to tell, and seeing him improve upon his various methods of telling them. Still, I suspect I’ll always prefer the stage version.