This review was previously published in The National newspaper.
Kristin Wiig is mostly known for her colourful comedic work on TV’s Saturday Night Live and in films such as Bridesmaids and the recent Zoolander 2.
But alongside 2014’s The Skeleton Twins, the oddly compelling comedy drama Welcome To Me gives Wiig another chance to tinge those funny bones with dramatic darkness.
She plays Alice Klieg, a woman who has borderline personality disorder and who one day wins the Mega-Millions lottery. Instead of buying a sports car or jetting off on holiday, Alice immediately comes off her medication and buys her own talk show at a station usually reserved for infomercials.
Inspired by love for her idol Oprah, her one-woman show is as the title suggests – all about her, including her views on everything from healthy eating to the benefits of neutering pets, as well as doing some cathartic soul-bearing that she was hitherto unable to accomplish.
It’s like the ultimate form of narcissistic infotainment, in which even those in charge of keeping the show on air can do nothing but indulge her every whim because she’s the one keeping the lights on.
Alice’s newfound limelight at first seems like a dream come true but the cracks begin to show as the situation takes more3 of a toll on her mental wellbeing.
It’s a film that ambitiously attempts to meld various genres, from high-concept comedy that wouldn’t have been out of place in the 1980s to deathly dark explorations of what it means to have mental health problems and how that impacts the person’s life and those around them.
It falls a bit short of gelling them together completely, as well as leaving some of its side-plots and supporting characters peculiarly unexplored; actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim Robbins are criminally underused.
But there’s an admirable trying quality to the film as a whole and whatever its flaws, Wiig is tremendous in the lead role. She inhabits this offbeat and at times purposefully difficult character with daring conviction.
Alice could have come off as something of a caricature – she pronounces certain words incorrectly live on air, bumbles her way through conversations and so forth – but Wiig imbues her with a certain kind of eccentric charm and, above all, believability.
Elevated by Wiig’s compelling central performance, Welcome To Me is a film that doesn’t easily fit into one neat box and that’s most definitely a good thing. It wears its awkwardness and imperfectness as a badge of honour, and in doing so becomes strangely fascinating.