From the people who brought you Step Brothers and Anchorman comes a little film called, Welcome To Me, starring Kristen Wiig. Going into this movie with that information would not reflect what it really is. Welcome To Me is a comedy, but a dark one that borders the line into a deep drama. When I saw my local “art house” theater was playing this movie, I vaguely remembered hearing about Wiig appearing in a more serious role. I ended up seeing it only knowing the synopsis and cast, and left pleasantly surprised.
I’ve never been a big fan of Kristen Wiig. I don’t watch Saturday Night Live regularly or any of the movies she’s been in. I don’t think she is a bad actress but I don’t particularly enjoy much of what she has done. What I will say, however, is that she was perfect in this role. Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a woman living with Borderline Personality Disorder. She lives compulsively in a dark, lonely room, everything color coordinated, and decides to stop taking her medication. She also watches Oprah religiously, recording every episode and reciting them while she watches them. One day she happens to win 86 million dollars and decides to take after Oprah and start a talk show about herself. She finances the whole thing herself at a small broadcast station and does some weird stuff there.
There are many places this movie could have gone wrong. Turning a story about a woman with BPD into a comedy could have been a disaster if it was put into the wrong hands. Luckily, the direction by Shira Piven, screenplay by Eliot Laurence, and brilliant performance by Wiig find the right balance between taking this disorder seriously while not being offensive. We’ve seen many times that often some of the best dramatic actors came from a career in comedy. I can’t talk from experience in either genre, but I think Wiig’s comedic background helped her so much in this movie. Like I said, this movie does not satirize or make offensive jokes over the subject matter, it was surprisingly funny. I actually laughed out loud once or twice, which I never do in movies. I think there are great opportunities from humor in situations you don’t expect there to be. That is why this film was so delightful; it is funny at the right times and serious in the others.
What really made this movie interesting and a great story of a character with a disorder is that like the show Alice creates, it is entirely about her. Through her blatantly bad but high production valued talk show, we learn almost everything about her and her condition. She puts on skits about formative life events from her childhood, cries on screen, and pretty much just acts like herself. It’s not always funny, it does go dark for a portion of the movie. This is where the subtlety and grace of Wiig’s performance shines.
While this is Wiig’s movie beginning to end, she has a good supporting cast. Joan Cusack stood out in her limited, scene stealing role. She is there for no other reason than to entertain us as the producer of the show. Her only communication with Alice is through a headset. Somehow she worked so much into that relationship. Tim Robbins looked surprisingly younger than I thought he was, playing Wiig’s therapist. He had less moments of humor, but provoked Alice to have some great scenes. Jennifer Jason Leigh also was in just a little bit of the movie. I’m still highly anticipating seeing her in The Hateful Eight and hope she has more to do in that film.
I’m interested to know how this movie came about, or how people like Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and Wiig came to do it. McKay and Ferrell were producers here. I always like to see actors move away from their niche and go into something different. Wiig played her part so well that I am curious why she wanted to play that character. There aren’t many actresses I can think of that could have done as good as she did. Julianne Moore was great in Still Alice but I don’t know if she could have added the dark humor element as well. It’s also nice to see the McKay/Ferrell team helping with this movie.
Welcome To Me recently found US distribution after debuting at last year’s Toronto Film Festival, and I’m glad I was able to see it. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. Those who like Wiig for her SNL work may or may not enjoy this side of her. Which ever side you are on, I think it can be agreed upon that she has some serious acting chops. There are few better feelings than coming out of a theater, being totally surprised and entertained from a movie you knew nothing about before.