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Welcome to Me | Review

Broadcast Blues: Wiig’s Amusing Portrait of Mental Illness

Shira Piven Welcome to Me PosterMental illness collides with reality TV inspired media for Shira Piven’s generally pleasurable oddity, Welcome to Me, granting Kristen Wiig her best solo semi-dramatic role to date. That’s not to say that the film is always successful on every front, as the film’s zany implausibility, while often funny, eschews the melancholy reality of its own broken heart. But some may be perfectly fine with Piven’s and screenwriter Eliot Laurence’s inability to make borderline personality disorder seem more than the basis for an entertaining scenario. Yet the film digs so deeply into its own batty delights that moments sometimes reserved for more sobering reflection don’t resonate with any sort of dramatic impact.

Alice Klieg (Wiig), a woman suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, wins $86 million dollars at the lottery, which allows her to stop depending on disability checks that require her to see her therapist (Tim Robbins). Leaving behind her cramped apartment littered with stacks of VHS tapes of Oprah Winfrey reruns, Alice, with the help of her best friend (Linda Cardellini), moves into a casino hotel and decides she wants to buy her way into her own talk show after being a live audience member at a failing infomercial production company run by Gabe (Wes Bentley) and his conniving brother (James Marsden). They need the money so they agree to Alice’s crazy concept about a daytime talk show about her life, titled “Welcome to Me.” The network director Dawn (Joan Cusack) is resigned to the fact while other staff members are more vocally opposed to Alice.

It may be hard to decide what to think of a character like Alice Klieg—frustrating, unerringly selfish, yet suffering from a debilitating disorder that allows polite members of society to easily forgive her. What Piven and Laurence really nail is the innate selfishness often imbuing creative output. When one character gifts Alice with a book on Cindy Sherman (thought to be an inspiration for Alice’s talk show) only to discover her ignorance of the artist, Alice’s response reveals the rather unfortunate, vapid truth best left unknown to those wishing for greater meaning behind works of genius. Alice knows only Oprah, and like legions of others, desires the same kind of power, control, and poise that the media mogul possesses.

Wiig’s comedic skills are unparalleled, and she plays Alice Krieg with a viciously funny conviction. Except, the entertainment value of this hyperbolized portrait of borderline personality disorder (often referred to as a catch-all diagnosis) often feels at her expense. This isn’t a demeaning portrayal of mental illness, at least not to the degree of crass examination in last year’s Frank, but it too often feels like a silly daydream, and if you’re of the persuasion that has difficulty pushing aside multiple ‘what if’ questions, your enjoyment may wane. But Wiig plays so brilliantly off a handful of supporting foils, ranging from Wes Bentley, to James Marsden, to Joan Cusack, that it’s easy to ignore.

Certainly, this is exactly the winning energy that was lacking from some of Wiig’s earlier semi-dramatic quirk vehicles post-Bridesmaids, such as the contrived Girl Most Likely and the somnolent Hateship Loveship. More consequential relationships, such as her aggravated therapist played by Tim Robbins and the valiant bestie played by Linda Cardellini are nicely administered but ultimately hollow. And then someone like Jennifer Jason Leigh seems completely wasted here. Instead, Piven ends Welcome to Me on an abruptly enigmatic note that works better than prior efforts to empathize with Alice’s disability.


Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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