We all hope that we are important individuals meant to do something great, and there is an entire industry of ego-fluffing that operates based off the knowledge of that hope. Some people, though, take it too much to heart. Shira Piven’s Welcome To Me follows one such person, Alice Klieg (Kristin Wiig), a self-help junkie who is obsessed with Oprah to the point that she recites her rousing confidence-boosting speeches every morning. But Alice’s problems are more insidious than that. She is a creature of habit who buys a copy of O Magazine, one snack cup of vanilla pudding and one lotto ticket every single day. Her television, which she is prone to hug and kiss, hasn’t been turned off in eleven years. She has also been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. Alice lives in the knowledge that – as long as she believes – her time will come and with it a new life. Lo and behold, she wins the California Lottery, and the era of “$86 million Alice” begins.

The changes to Alice’s shut-in lifestyle begin immediately. She goes off her meds (instead managing her moods with a high-protein lifestyle courtesy of string cheese), decides to stop seeing her psychiatrist (Tim Robbins), moves into a casino hotel on an Indian reservation, and spends $15 million to make Welcome To Me, a public access daytime talk show about herself – her loves, hopes, dreams and the people she thinks are cunts. Despite the fact that she habitually avoids confrontation and the whims of her spontaneous emotions by speaking in prepared written statements (even to friends), Alice’s inability to perform in front of a camera is a non-issue for the brother duo of Rich (James Marsden) and Gabe (Wes Bentley), struggling infomercial creators whose desperation allows Alice’s Oprah dreams to come true. Warily supported by her best friend, Gina (Linda Cardellini), and her ex-husband, Todd (Alan Tudyk), Alice makes the leap to introduce her new self to the albeit limited public access viewership.

The comedy is predominantly surreal and absurdist, not unlike many of the characters Wiig cultivated on “SNL.” Screenwriter Eliot Laurence has tapped into the ridiculous deadpan humor Wiig has perfected over the years and, stretching it out over a full-length feature, gives her the opportunity to humanize that galvanizing character. From an altercation with an overturned inflatable tube man to a six-day stint neutering dogs, Alice’s antics on live TV are wickedly hilarious. But while the film is comedic, it also succeeds as a meaningful character study.

Alice’s actions are impulsive and, in more ways than one, self-destructive. But, despite the comedic setup, her condition is deftly handled. The humor doesn’t stoop so low as to use her disorder for comedy fodder or indeed attempt to oversimplify its symptoms. Alice explains her mindset best when she says, “I simply don’t have time for the pain.” This is a woman who was diagnosed with manic depression at 16. That later changed to rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, and now, it’s just called borderline personality disorder. We feel the exhaustion when Alice asks, “Who can keep up?” The true impetus behind Alice’s TV show is not exhibitionism but catharsis, especially in meta segments where Alice reenacts past traumatic social experiences live on the show with stand-in actresses credited as “Alice During Her Awkward Phase,” “Self-Actualized Alice,” and so on. That Alice alternately interrupts, directs their performances and consoles these satellite selves is a source of humor, but even more it’s a therapeutic process. There may be very little for an outside audience to appreciate beyond the laugh factor, but for Alice herself Welcome To Me is a massive success, fostering independence, confidence and self-awareness.

To say that this is a dark comedy is an understatement, but the thrill of independence Alice feels is infectious. Welcome To Me manages to juggle the absurdity of Alice’s situation with her story of mental illness. As a result, its tone might appear inconsistent, but that stems more from the disconcerting subject matter than from the flaws in the film. Making a comedy about mental illness is, needless to say, a bold move, and Welcome To Me pulls it off with humor and empathy. Since the success of Bridesmaids, Wiig has consistently made intriguing film choices, and this film could mark the beginning of a new depth to her blend of comedy and drama.

  • Revisit: Whip It

    A classic tale of breaking out of one’s shell and testing the boundaries of new passions. …
  • Downsizing

    The green-minded consumer may talk about reducing their carbon footprint, but to what leng…
  • The Best Films of 2015 (So Far)

    This past weekend, a few million assholes shelled out $55million to see Jurassic World. As…
  • From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

    Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…
  • Oeuvre: Campion: Holy Smoke!

    Holy Smoke! manages to revisit some of the same themes as The Piano yet in a less cohesive…
  • Mountain

    Like Planet Earth, Mountain offers beautiful shots of some of the most treacherous places …
  • Revisit: Idiocracy

    Just as Mike Judge’s lampooning of cubicle culture in Office Space feels like a relic fro…
  • Foster Boy

    An astonishing, infuriating and frequently demoralizing tale undone by a general lack of p…
  • Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles

    There is little rhyme or reason to the construction of the material being shown here. …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

From the Vaults of Streaming Hell: Koi…Mil Gaya

Few films will leave you as borderline offended, flabbergasted, entertained and touched as…