I really like the movie Sleepwalk With Me and am moved to write something about it. So, here it goes.
The movie is about falling in love and chasing your dreams– all the amazing, horrible and confusing feelings that come with both of those things. It’s about being confused, not knowing how to be an adult, not knowing what to do with your life. Uncertainty. It’s about storytelling. It’s about medical issues. In short– this movie is about a lot of things I am currently experiencing as a 27-year-old woman.
Mike Birbiglia, the film’s director and star (and the movie is based on a true story of something he went through), is not a 27-year-old woman. He’s a standup comedian, which I am not. We don’t seem to have a lot in common, or come from similar backgrounds. But Birbiglia and his character, Matt, are instantly relatable for me. From the first moment of the film, in which Matt is driving in a car and speaking directly to the camera, telling everyone to turn off their phones because he was recently at the movies and a guy sitting near him answered his phone saying, “Who dis,” he has opened a door and we are along for the ride.
Maybe it’s because his character is so flawed. Matt makes so many mistakes that we as the audience can cringe at, thinking, “No! Don’t do it!” We have all made those mistakes, done self-destructive things to the breaking point of our lives seeming to fall apart in our hands. It’s like the whole Moses thing in the Passover story. There’s a question we ask at the Passover Seder: “Why is Moses, the leader of this story, shown as imperfect?” Because then we can relate to him. None of us is perfect, and if you show us a leader or a protagonist who is, we know that guy or gal isn’t for real. We need to see a flawed human being figure things out. Or not figure them out. We need to see that it’s okay to be kind of messed up. Because everyone is.
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is after Matt’s first gig “on tour” at a college upstate hosting a lip sync contest. Matt is in his hotel room later that night: jumping on the bed, turning the bathroom light on and off, ordering pizza– all to the soundtrack of The Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way. There is a deep sense of joy in this scene. In this crappy hotel room in Utica, where he has probably spent most of his paycheck for the night, Matt is living his dream and he knows it. There is a shot of his face looking around the room, and in his eyes is this glint of magic. Each time I watch this scene my heart swells. When you have a dream like that you drive thousands of miles around the country in a crappy car, spending more money than you’re making, and you do it for that fucking moment.
At the same time Matt is chasing this dream, he’s trying to figure out his relationship with his long-time girlfriend, Abby. They’ve been together for 8 years, she’s great, marriage seems like the next logical step. But Matt resists, knowing it isn’t right, he doesn’t want to get married. But Abby’s great and he loves her, so…? It’s that confusion in relationships that I am seeing a lot of in movies lately, and it’s being done honestly and beautifully. Maybe it’s because I’m 27 that I relate to this so strongly, other generations may not find it so powerful, but I grab onto this confusion because I’m confused too! How do relationships work? What’s the right way to love somebody? What do I want? How do I sustain that love for 50 years? Hell, how do I sustain it for 3?
Sleepwalk With Me is about love, about having a dream (literally and figuratively). Can we chase our crazy dream and come home to the person we think is the awesomest and sexiest and they think we are awesome too? Can we make it last? Can we do it without cheating? Can we handle all this and still remember to make doctor’s appointments and somehow make enough money to survive? This is life.