MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Welcome To Me’ Is Kristen Wiig At Her Best

Film: Welcome To Me
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Wes Bentley
Directed by: Shira Piven

As if you needed another reason to love Kristen Wiig.

Welcome To Me may be the definition of an offbeat movie. Both hilarious and heartbreaking, the film tells the tale of a mentally unwell woman who uses her lottery winnings to purchase air time on at a local TV station. She uses that time to host one-hundred episodes of her very own talk show, starring herself, with absolutely no guests.

If you think that premise is one built to be funny, you’re half right. The adventures of Alice Klieg are often fun, but they are rooted in a very real mental disease. You learn at the top of the film that she recently stopped using her medication, so from the opening sequence you’re basically watching a ticking time bomb that just so happens to come into $86 million dollars out of the blue. It’s a situation that would be life-changing for anyone, but for Alice Klieg it’s more than that. For the first time ever, she is in control, and she knows exactly what she wants.

Alice has many enablers, but the worst of them is Rich, the co-owner of the television station where Alice hosts her show. He needs cash to keep his family-owned television station afloat, and he’s willing to overlook Alice’s clear lack of stability if it means he can avoid layoffs a little longer. It’s a deal with the devil that comes from a good place, but it’s the kind of questionable decision that causes the viewer to question how they should feel about everything that happens.

The problem with Welcome To Me is also what makes it so damn interesting to watch, and that is the fact that from very early on you are aware the main character has a problem they are doing everything to avoid. You know Alice is sick, and even though what she says and does may be humorous there is a part of you that understands it’s stemming from a very real problem. The characters on screen know this as well, yet they allow Alice to do as she pleases because it’s either easier for them or in some way beneficial to their livelihoods. Whether or not it’s okay to laugh at what happens as a result of their actions is for the viewer to decide, and filmmaker Shira Piven does a fine job of presenting the material in a generally unbiased manner.

Wiig is at the top of her game from scene one straight on through till the credits role, and she has an incredibly strong supporting cast at her side. Her family includes Linda Cardellini and an ex-husband portrayed by Alan Tudyck. Her work family features James Marsden, Joan Cusack, as well as Wes Bentley who, more than anyone other than Wiig, uses this film to launch his stardom into the stratosphere with a pitch perfect performance that won’t be forgotten any time soon. His grounded approach to his role is the perfect complement to Wiig, and together they have chemistry far stronger than most indie pairings.

Shira Piven is a perfectly capable filmmaker, but I would be lying if I said I thought no one could handle the same material and deliver a better product. The presentation of the film, much like the story itself, often feels flat. That works in terms of narration, but from a visual standpoint it can make even the most interesting sequences feel dull, or even lifeless. The intimate moments work better than those that take place on Alice’s show, but neither are as satisfying as they could have been. In terms of quality, it’s only good, when you know deep down it could be great.

Despite its flaws, Welcome To Me manages to deliver an engaging and undeniably unique story that steers clear of every major cliche found in film today. Wiig is a dream, and her cast mates are just as good. If the technical side of the production were executed as well as the acting this project would be an unstoppable entertainment force to be reckoned with, but as is, it’s an adequately entertaining story that never reaches its full potential. There is something here for everyone who enjoys the combination of drama and comedy, but your overall level of satisfaction will vary greatly from person to person.


Review written by James Shotwell

James Shotwell
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