Director: Shira Piven
Starring: Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Wes Bentley
It’s my own fault for not reading the IMDb description, but I had no idea that this movie was about a personality disorder. Going in, I thought it was a comedy featuring a quirky Kristen Wiig character, a movie that would be full of cameos and SNL humor. Well, was I in for a surprise. One of the first lines of the film is a message on an answering machine from her psychiatrist noting that Alice has stopped taking her medication, and from that point on every joke is forcibly viewed through that lens. Fortunately for me, my wife is an experienced therapist and was there to tell me that Wiig’s portrayal of a woman with borderline personality disorder was completely spot on, from the incredibly self-centered lifestyle to the inability to recognize the effect you have on those around you. She summed it up for me with the idiom “I love you, I love you, I hate you, I hate you, love me, love me, love me.” So while it was an accurate depiction of the problems facing and surrounding a person with this disorder, it was not at all what I was expecting.
To quote What About Bob; “The simplest way to put it: I have problems.” Well, so does Alice Klieg. She has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, hasn’t turned off her television in years, tapes all of Oprah’s episodes, and uses masturbation as a sedative. A little strange to say the least, pretty socially awkward, but always harmless and usually kind, at least to her best friend Gina and ex-husband Ted. Alice lives in world all her own, a world that’s organized by color, doesn’t include sugar, and revolves around the TV guide. But things are about to change for Alice, and she’s about to be on the television instead of sitting in front of it, after she wins millions of dollars in the lottery and decides to start a talk show. Hey, millionaires can do whatever they want, including buying time slots and creating a show called Welcome to Me that has no purpose except as a venue for the emotional vomit of Alice Klieg.
She finds a studio willing to take her show rather quickly, since they’re about to go under anyway and can’t say no to cold, hard cash. At least, Rich can’t, the head of the studio, though his brother/partner Gabe is a little less enthusiastic. He sees the potential trouble ahead, most likely because he deals with a few mental issues himself, but it’s pretty obvious to all involved, as long as you’re not blinded by multi-million dollar checks. So Alice has her show. It’s a strange mix of her counseling appointments via telephone, reenactments of her past grievances, healthy cooking tips, her eating her healthy cooking, and neutering dogs. Yes, neutering dogs, on air, before a live audience, with no awareness that it might not be OK. That’s the way Welcome To Me goes, it’s a show with no filter, the culmination of a life lived the same way.
So, yeah, I was surprised. After that early line about her medication and every reference thereafter to her disorder, I had to think through every joke before I laughed. It’s not like I’m ultra-sensitive or incredibly PC, but when someone tells you, in life or in a movie, that they have a mental illness, you take the potential comedy surrounding their personality with a grain of salt. The film became a very troubling story about a troubled woman, much less of the comedy that I had imagined it would be. So during the moments that were supposed to be funny, I often found myself uncomfortable instead, knowing that what I was watching was a purposeful portrayal of an unhealthy woman, someone who didn’t see the humor in what she was doing. I enjoyed the reactions of the characters around her, they were funny, because they were often in the same boat I was, trying to make their way through the insanity that was Alice’s life.
But if it’s not exactly a comedy, then what is it? A personal story perhaps, a bit of weight off someone’s chest, a clever depiction of what life could be like for a person like Alice, or for the people who love her. The film takes a really dark turn towards the climax, making it even less funny and harder to watch, but ultimately honest in a way, though over-blown for theatrical effect. Give Kristen Wiig credit for this role, something that could not possibly have been easy. She bared all, literally & figuratively, portraying a much deeper character than perhaps we’ve ever seen from her. Although, for my money, The Skeleton Twins is a better film, with acting from SNL alumni that will blow you away, a story that feels heartfelt, characters that have major issues, but comedy that relies on their choices rather than on the actions they can’t control. I quoted What About Bob earlier, a film that’s excellent & hilarious in the way it presents mental problems, but it works for a very specific reason; Bob’s not crazy. He’s a normal guy with abnormal issues, someone who you can laugh with while he works them out. Alice never felt like that, she just felt sad, creating a heroine that I couldn’t love and a film that I couldn’t enjoy as much as I wanted to.
Video – With an aspect ratio of 16×9 Widescreen, the video quality of the Blu-ray doesn’t exactly jump off the screen at audiences. The picture quality is fine, but very unimportant, as the movie is more about the Punch-Drunk Love feel and less about stunning visuals.
Audio – The film was done in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, with an option for English Stereo 2.0. There are also two subtitle choices: English SDH and Spanish. The sound quality is fine but, again, unremarkable. The song choices are funny though, with a pleasant soundtrack.
Extras – There are only a few Special Features on the disc. There is an 8-minute long featurette available that basically acts as a small behind-the-scenes segment. Also, there are five trailers: Welcome to Me, Are You Here, Accidental Love, Fading Gigolo, The Humbling.
Rent It. Being surprised can be a tremendous thing, or it can be a complete disappointment. It’s a bad sign that the surprise here was that I was going to laugh exponentially less than I had imagined I would. It’s also a bad sign when a handful of much better movies come to mind immediately upon watching a film. So, take those bad signs and make your choice, because Welcome to Me is a film that should make an impact, but it might not be the one you expect. It’s funny, until you analyze it, brutally honest throughout, and left me feeling a little disconcerted. The video is alright, the audio the same, with a couple extras on a lackluster Blu-ray disc. There are just so many other movies that I’d recommend over this one, both comedies & dramas, Kristen Wiig films, and stories about mental disease. So put this at the bottom of your list if you still have it as a must-see; just be prepared for what it is and ready to forgive it for what it’s not.
☆ ☆ ☆ – Content
☆ ☆ ☆- Video
☆ ☆ ☆- Audio
☆ ☆- Extras
☆ ☆ – Replay