By Libby Allen
BU News Service
“Welcome To Me” is, in a word, bizarre. Within the first few minutes of the film, we know that we’re not watching a comedy, but we’re not watching a drama either. It’s some odd conglomeration of the two, located in the elusive movie genre limbo.
SNL favorite, Kristen Wiig, plays the role of Alice Klieg, a self-absorbed and isolated woman who not only has a borderline personality disorder, but an obsession with snack packs and taping “Oprah” reruns (yes, with VHS tapes). As the film begins, we follow Alice around throughout her day and realize that she lives on disability, is off her medication and is an avid collector of lottery tickets. When Alice wins the California state lottery for a cool $86 million, she takes up permanent residence in a casino. She’d prefer to just eat her snack packs, though.
Chaos ensues when Alice decides to commandeer a low-budget TV production studio and fund her own talk show, aptly titled “Welcome to Me.” Strapped for cash, the studio owners, Rich and Gabe (played by James Marsden and Wes Bentley, respectively) decide to entertain the absurd idea and give Alice her own show, which somehow enlists a devoted following.
With a plot this strange, acted in the capable hands of Wiig and co-stars Joan Cusack and Linda Cardellini, we expect to be peeing our pants throughout the film. Instead, the movie puts us, along with its genre, in a sort of emotional limbo — one where we’re kind of disturbed, slightly humored and quite reflective of the scenario unfolding before us.
As the plot builds, we watch Alice unleash the full power of her mania on the production studio and its increasingly angered staff. From her on-screen intro in a homemade swan boat, to cooking segments involving items like meatloaf cake, Alice’s show devolves from comedic to cruel as she racks up a hefty stack of slander lawsuits against friends and acquaintances.
But what should be pure entertainment for us instead plateaus on the nuanced humor of us hesitantly laughing at her personality disorder. That’s not to say “Welcome to Me” isn’t hilarious. Alice Klieg monopolizes the production studio with her overwhelming…well, personality, erupting into fits of rage and sadness that only someone with Wiig’s comedic confidence could pull off. As we watch her continually gush in absurd spasms of emotion on live television, we feel that it’s finally okay to laugh.
In one scene, Alice is recruiting actresses to reenact a moment from her childhood when her arch enemy, Jordana, reveals her personality disorder to the entire school. The reenactment is interrupted by an hysterical Alice blurting out the story at the top of her lungs, “F**k you to death, Jordana!”
Yet from the zenith of the film’s humor comes a nasty spiral of progressions almost as precarious as Alice’s moods. “Welcome to Me” culminates in a whirlwind devolution of Alice realizing the harm she’s caused to her friends and family. As she subsequently releases three adopted dogs she recently acquired onto some elderly blackjack players, the scene unfolds with Alice walking zombie-like through her casino-home donning nothing but an unexpected full-frontal.
“Welcome to Me” provides a wobbly bridge between surreal drama and dark humor that doesn’t quite connect to the other side. But it still holds the ability to make us laugh uncontrollably — even if we’re not really sure why we’re laughing.