Welcome to Me
Welcome to Me (2014)
★★ / ★★★★
Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) is a woman who has borderline personality disorder. Despite her psychiatrist’s (Tim Robbins) insistence that she go back to taking her medications, she is convinced that she is perfectly okay without them. Her newfound freedom is tested when she wins eighty-six million dollars through the lottery. Her first decision: move into a hotel to live there indefinitely and purchase her own talk show in which each episode is all about herself.
Based on the screenplay by Eliot Laurence and directed by Shira Piven, “Welcome to Me” is a light dark comedy about mental illness and a critique on modern narcissism. Although inconsistent in pacing and tone, there are bright spots where the comedy is inspired. Wiig is a talented and charming performer who not only gets away with a blank look on her face but also makes that look quite intriguing.
There is a theme about exorcising one’s past. Although Alice is not the most reliable character because she has a tendency to stretch the truth for the sake of being dramatic, we wonder which moments of each sketch of the show contain a grain of truth. The protagonist is obviously in pain and is not always able to communicate her thoughts and feelings through words. So it is up to us to try to look closer and it is up to Wiig draw us in and make it worthwhile to get to know Alice.
Yes, it is a comedy even though at first glance it may not appear like it is. For me, the comedy can be found in the astonishment of each supporting character. They simply cannot believe that this woman, who could use her money for anything else—traveling the world, buying a mansion, giving back to her community, living life to the fullest—chose to appear on television and be humiliated. But the joke, in a way, is also on them because, at the end of the day, they work for her. Money goes a long way especially when a few zeroes after a whole number can buy principle. Anybody who really cared would have gotten—or at the very least tried to get—Alice some help.
The romance between Alice and Gabe (Wes Bentley), formerly the host of the television spot the former bought out, is malnourished. It is clear that both of them are a bit weird and may have some deeply-rooted issues but the script fails to explore these characters. Their interactions almost always end up in casual sex—always a punchline or a joke, never romantic—and so the connection comes across forced or disingenuous. We never root for them to be together because there is no reason for them to get together.
Good performers like Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, James Marsden, and Loretta Devine are not given anything special to do. Their characters could have been given to other actors and it probably would not have made any difference to the overall quality of the picture. The scenes that they are in, however, are never boring—just not as sharp, as biting, or as exciting as they can be.
“Welcome to Me” is a comedy that needs to be more extreme—either sweeter or darker—for its subject matter to become more memorable. A state of in-between is almost always never a good thing when it comes to making people laugh or feel uncomfortable. It straddles the line between us daydreaming and questioning what the point is supposed to be.