Welcome to Me

2015, R, 86 min. Directed by Shira Piven. Starring Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Thomas Mann, Loretta Devine.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 8, 2015

Welcome to Me

Welcome to Me is not sure if it wants to be an uncomfortable comedy or wry drama. The film stars Kristen Wiig, who switched over to making films after concluding a popular stint as a longtime regular on Saturday Night Live, where she created a stable of peculiar characters whose lack of social affect was matched by their inappropriate enthusiasm. With Alice Klieg (the “me” in Welcome to Me), Wiig has etched another unforgettable character, despite sometimes feeling as though watching Alice is akin to the involuntary compulsion to watch a train wreck in motion.

The film has a stellar premise: Alice, a woman diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and currently off her meds, wins $86 million in the state lottery and sinks her windfall into the production of a TV show called Welcome to Me. An Oprah fanatic who hasn’t turned off her TV in 11 years, Alice lines her apartment walls with videocassettes of Oprah’s show, whose episodes she can recite by heart. Yet Alice’s show is filled with things like cooking episodes featuring meatloaf cake (with sweet potato icing) and libelous reenactments of childhood traumas. No one is willing to save Alice from herself: the infomercial owners of the operation, a sibling team played by James Marsden and Wes Bentley, like the color of her money; the director (Cusack) watches in horror but recognizes the show as must-see television; her best friend Gina (Cardellini) abandons Alice after one too many slights; and her long-suffering therapist (Robbins) gave up on her a while back. Inevitably, Alice crashes, leaving enough time to tie up the plot in a nice bow.

Welcome to Me isn’t laughing with Alice, but at her, in what seems like a harsh reaction to mental illness. The film milks untold jokes from the setups of Alice’s show segments, but after we get the idea, the humor wears thin. By the time she suffers a complete breakdown in the middle of the Indian casino where she now resides, it’s impossible to recognize her anguish amid the absurdity that has become her life. Although the film’s depiction of borderline personality disorder seems on-target for the most part, I question whether someone with the condition would have the brazen confidence to star in her own TV show. I know humor in recent years has had a predilection for creating discomfiture within the audience, but Welcome to Me takes it too far. The jokes take on a certain redundancy, and a queasiness about laughing at the consequences of mental illness sets in.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Kristen Wiig Films
Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo find a few laughs as vacationing friends

Matthew Monagle, Feb. 19, 2021

Wonder Woman 1984
Diana Prince stars in an all-new episode of I Love the ’80s

Richard Whittaker, Jan. 1, 2021

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Nomadland
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021

KEYWORDS FOR THIS FILM

Welcome to Me, Shira Piven, Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, James Marsden, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Thomas Mann, Loretta Devine

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle