“Not everyone is an emotional exhibitionist.”
Writing about Welcome to Me, one of the most worthless and heartless movies I have ever seen, just flat-out pisses me off. Everything about this movie (I refuse to call it a film, which bears a higher artistic connotation than the word for a series of moving images) is manipulative in all of the worst ways. Shira Piven’s directing of an incredibly out of touch and insensitive screenplay demands its audience to treat serious mental illness like a joke, as if it is nothing more than a common cold we should all easily get over. Welcome to Me deserves to have its title trademarked as a doormat, inviting audience members to rightfully stomp off dirt and wipe their feet in its memory. Right now, I can’t think of a more appropriate or perfectly descriptive adjective than disgraceful. Call the coroner, because this is a death to quality cinema, lowering the flag to half mast so long as it’s part of the current discussion.
The very first words spoken by Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) are, “I study myself more than any other subject.” Alice is sick, mentally, battling depression that’s transformed into borderline personality disorder. She’s also incredibly selfish, and up there with the most unsympathetic characters I’ve had the displeasure of meeting. That might sound harsh, like I’m belittling her illness, but it’s a bi-product of the story’s own ambivalence to respectfully making jokes about such a personally sensitive subject. Even when the film tries to come full circle, with its last breathing moments where you wish you had a pillow to suffocate it, Alice is still leading her own parade and tooting her own horn. It’s all me, me, me…it’s all I want it now, now, now. I’d rather sit next to a crying baby on a transatlantic flight than have to listen to the Alice Klieg say one more line.
After winning 86 Million dollars in the California state lottery, Alice decides to create and star in her own talk show. She seemingly has TV addiction, never turning off her set and memorizing the entire catalog of Oprah episodes. The show, from where the movie’s title originates, is an obvious coping mechanism for Alice. It’s therapy, and for anyone besides her it can be seen as therapeutic. But while Alice, clearly troubled and traumatized, attempts to find peace, the audience is given a free pass to mock and deride her character. Welcome to Me is an incompetent, ponderous, excruciating one woman talent show act that’s never forced off stage, instead given free rein to splay under the limelight far after the show’s been over and the crowd has left. I’m surprised it didn’t attempt to blur the politically incorrect lines and start using words like retard, crazy or psycho.
The rest of the cast is filled out by Linda Cardellini as Alice’s only friend, James Marsden as the shows producer, and Wes Bentley as her bizarre fling. None of them matter though, because as you might have guessed, this is all about Alice/Kristen Wiig. She’s not bad in the role we’ve seen her play a thousand times over on SNL or Anchorman or Girl Most Likely. It’s literally the same character, mostly utilizing malapropisms, improvisation, and awkward physicality to draw laughs. Wiig is one of the best in each category, but as Alice it just doesn’t work. I guarantee she’ll be heralded as “heroic” and “brave” for taking on this edgy character and bearing it all in a full frontal scene (which has no purpose other than to drill into our heads, “Hey, hey you! Look at me! I’m REALLY acting!”) However, as Alice I found Wiig to somehow be painfully unfunny for what I imagine is the first time in her life.
Alice does the following on air: lies on the floor sleeping, makes a meatloaf with only 19 “carbohydrants”, and neuters multiple dogs only to hold up and show the tiny audience in studio and at home their “walnuts.” It’s never clever or intelligent. Instead, Shira Piven’s deplorable movie is an open casting call to amoral individuals willing to debase the trials and tribulations of mental illness in favor of grabbing the sharpest goad in sight and parading them around like an injured elephant in a three-ring circus. We’ve seen multiple Alice’s over the course of cinema history. One Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, another fell down the rabbit hole, and last year’s candid Still Alice disappeared into her own Alzheimer’s afflicted mind. Unlike those three fully-realized characters, the latest by that name is determined to live forever, and probably will, as the lead in Welcome to Me, one of the most self-absorbed and distasteful films I have endured to date.
“If I paid you, would you give me a clean bill of health…mentally?”
Rating: 0 out of 5