EIFF 2015 – Welcome to Me
Welcome to Me is a very strange film that in many ways defies description. When Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) wins $86 million on the lottery she decides to fund a TV show where she gets to explore whatever comes to her mind.
It’s a pretty solid idea and provides an interesting twist on the question of what to do when you win that much money. I for one don’t know what I’d do with it but I sure as hell would like to find out. The catch in this scenario is that Alice is mentally unbalanced so giving her the freedom to do and say whatever she wants on TV probably isn’t the best idea.
The film sets up Alice really well from the start. Her apartment says a lot about her personality with everything separated by colours corresponding to her emotions. She keeps herself company with a TV that never gets switched off and has an endless supply of VHS tapes to entertain her. It’s established early on that she is obsessed with Oprah and sees her as a personal idol.
When she wins the money she gets herself on TV by forking over obscene amounts of money to the studio to bring her show to life. The boss Rich (James Marsden) feels iffy about it but greed gets in the way and he lets her do whatever she wants much to the chagrin of his colleagues who see this as a horrifically bad idea.
What follows is just downright bizarre. Alice’s show is about as random as it gets with so many segments that come right of her unbalanced mind. The most interesting are the reenactments of traumatic parts of her life with ever changing stand-ins for her and the people involved filling the roles. There seems to be a bit of a catharsis for her to witness these and share her feelings about them to a TV audience.
She frequently crosses the line such as having a phone session with her therapist Dr. Daryl Moffet (Tim Robins) without his knowledge and running a week long segment where she neuters animals live on the air. Naturally this gets a lot of negative attention thrown at the TV studio causing Rich to eventually realise that granting her request wasn’t the smartest decision he ever made.
Kristen Wiig is excellent as Alice with a sense of realism to her performance that at times borders on unsettling. You can literally never predict what’s going to come out of her mouth next and watching what will come up next on her show gets pretty compulsive after a while. Her straight delivery of dialogue that people around her find inappropriate is spot on. She always comes across as someone who doesn’t really think about what she’s saying and couldn’t care less how others react to it. At the same time Alice is a very vulnerable person and having other people understand her is very important to her. She is an intriguing paradox and Wiig does an amazing job of putting that across.
He best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini) is the only person in her life that has put up with her all this time. Their friendship isn’t especially well developed but Cardellini comes across as genuinely patient and understanding. She would need to be to hang around with Alice so often. Her performance is good enough but she has very little to work with. I found it interesting that her friendship with Alice had a breaking point but couldn’t get behind the fact that Gina would yell at her for being selfish when she knows better than anyone what her condition can do.
The rest of the cast are a mixed bag who only tend to perform their parts of the story then shrink back into the background. I feel that Wes Bentley’s Gabe could have been more prominent considering how close he gets to Alice and his relationship to his brother Rich. I did enjoy James Marsden’s performance as the greedy business man as well as someone who is concerned about his reputation.
I found the comedy to work in a lot of cases but some of it was too awkward and cringe inducing for me personally. There are many moments where I couldn’t laugh because I was so disturbed by the frank portrayal of mental illness in a way that seemed real. I think it’s good that the film tries to portray it in a realistic light but playing some of it for laughs feels a little too much. It’s pretty awkward to laugh at mental illness in general but maybe that’s just me.
I think I would have responded better to it if I felt that the film was trying to make some kind of point about it but it seemed to just tell the story straight. Alice is the same throughout the film but has moments of clarity throughout when she realises that she has hurt her friend or went too far with her TV show. I would have liked a more conclusive exploration of her condition.
A solid comedy film that occasionally pushes things beyond the point where they are funny.
Kristen Wiig plays the role of Alice really well with an honesty to her portrayal of a woman who lives with a really severe disorder. She has no concept of how to properly socialise and her only frequent companion is a TV where she watches Oprah reruns and dreams of being her.
When she wins a lot of money and decides to spend it creating a TV show where she can bare her soul to anyone watching things get a lot more awkward. The show is very random and becomes almost compulsive to see what happens next. There’s some interesting catharsis for Alice as she looks onto re-enactments of important moments in her life.
The main problem I had is that it feels really bad to laugh at mental illness so I didn’t really appreciate the fact that the film was playing a lot of it for laughs. If there was some kind of point being made about her condition then fine but the films seems to just play the whole thing straight without any true exploration. Some of it was really funny but other parts were really cringe inducing.
Mileage will of course vary and I did find Wiig’s honest performance to be amazing. I would say check it out for her acting and as a curiosity.