Welcome to Me, 2014
dir. Shira Piven
This was a film I was really looking forward to because I love Kristen Wiig. She has shown since leaving SNL that she is willing to take risks in her acting, and that she is more than just a comic. And in this film, she gets to showcase all of that.
Welcome to Me is the uncomfortable and awkward story of Alice Klieg, who suffers from borderline personality disorder and, after winning the lottery, goes off her psychiatric meds and buys herself a talk show at a small local network. The film is a study not only of her character, but also of how she interacts with the people in her life, how she deals with romantic relationships, and how she sees herself. Her TV show, Welcome to Me, is deeply narcissistic, and the film itself is a look into narcissism. Wiig’s performance is astonishing, an all-time best for her so far, I think.
The film looks into narcissism and lottery culture — that money can buy happiness if you’re unhappy. It is a critique on out money and media obsessed culture. It also presents us with an interesting portrayal of mental illness. Alice isn’t a bumbling sweetie with mental illness, but she isn’t a wholly unlikeable character. She has dimensions which are explored especially through her relationships with her best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini) and the show producer Gabe (Wes Bentley).
The film also presents an interesting parallel with Oprah. Alice is obsessed with Oprah, which is why she wants a talk show in the first place, but unlike Oprah, she didn’t have to work hard to get to where she is. She lucked into her money, and now has this show in which she doesn’t really do anything. She actually uses the show as a form of self-therapy, tackling issues from her personal past, and ends up hurting a lot of people.
The supporting performances are also amazing, not only by Linda Cardellini and Wes Bentley, but also James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Alan Tudyk, and most importantly Joan Cusack, who really brings it for this film. The characters are really interesting, and you feel like they have a past, even though they don’t explicitly mention their lives.
And finally, on a technical sense, the film looks really good. The camera work and lighting are great, for the most part when they’re onstage for her show. Everything looks a bit shoddy and haphazardly put-together, and really authentic. All the little details in her apartment, how she colour-organises her things because it organises her emotions. It’s these little details which make the world feel more real, and so the movie feels more real as well.
It’s a great film which I highly recommend, for Kristen Wiig’s performance mostly, because she is rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors, and I love it!
review by Mariana Duarte