By: Trevor Jeffery
Kristen Wiig should keep doing her thing, because it’s definitely working for her, and Welcome to Me shows it.
Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me introduces itself masterfully: five minutes in and you know Alice Klieg (Wiig), her recently-unmedicated illness, and you have a good idea of how her life up to now has been. And, how someone like her winning $86 million can have negative consequences.
Alice throws money around like most stable people would after winning that amount, until she gets a taste of being on camera after party-crashing an infomercial. Afterwards, she approaches the station’s staff and pitches her show: ‘Welcome to Me’ – a talk show about her. Funding it herself, how could they refuse?
It’s fun and games for a while, usually ending with Alice having emotional break downs after screaming at reenactors portraying emotionally scarring moments of her life. ‘Welcome to Me’ gets kind of popular, but not really, but enough for her to go off the deep end.
The first half of the film is a quality dark comedy film. Wiig is great, playing at what she does best: a social misfit with no sense of her irregularity. The jokes come from a true understanding of character and situation, tying in with the plot and setting – not shoehorning in gags for the sake of gags.
The second half of the movie will make you consider what you were laughing at in the first half; by the time the midway point rolls around, the jokes drop off and you’re left to watch a sick woman crash and burn. It’s not that it takes a dark turn – the film let you know it was dark right from the start, when Alice asked a man at the store if there was rape in “A Tale of Two Cities” in casual conversation. The film takes a realistic turn, away from “this movie character is crazy!” to “this woman is mentally ill”. While the film remains intriguing and entertaining, the tonal shift is at least a little disruptive, putting the brakes on the pace and withholding laughs for different emotional reactions.
It’s worth mentioning that the great script and wonderful direction are only half the charm of Welcome to Me. The fantastic ensemble cast gives each character depth and relevance: Wiig, of course, in all her beautiful mania; Linda Cardellini as Alice’s, and the viewer’s, emotional support; Wes Bently’s serial-lover with hurt feelings; James Marsden’s sleazy exploitative station producer; and Tim Robbins as the warm but at-the-end-of-his-rope psychiatrist. On top of it all, you have Joan Cusack being great as Alice’s fairy godmother-like director, and Alan Tudyk as his own jawline/Alice’s ex-closeted ex-husband.
Welcome to Me is a really funny comedy with a more serious side, or a strong character drama with a silly side. No shoe fits perfectly, giving it a so-far unique charm.
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Trevor Jeffery: @TrevorSJeffery