Welcome to Me review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Welcome to Me attempts to find some humor under the premise of what a shut-in, weirdo of a woman would do if she won the lottery. Mentally unstable and riddled with issues, Alice (Kristen Wiig) goes on a spending spree to achieve her dream of obtaining the status of her idol, Oprah. She’s been studying her show for years from her obsessive collection of taped programs. When she finally buys her own show on a struggling network, she finally reaches the level of egotism she has been aiming for - her very own show that is all about her. With a huge amount of funds and limitless control from the studio accepting her money, Alice bares it all on a show that gets far too personal. Various skits are staged about her anxieties of the past that dig so deep Alice actually breaks the fourth wall to shout down her actor mother.
The character of Alice is humorous only in the sense of how awkward and crazy she appears. When she’s not staring blankly into space with dumbfound expression of depression, she explodes in fits of emotional rage. But for the most part she’s just blank and quiet as if she were a character from Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job. She’s an abnormality that was destined to be a public television oddity. Her segments for the program include baking, gossip, skits and live dog surgery. She was apparently a vet prior and uses her skills to demonstrate castrating dogs as well as offer the service for free to those who want it. Also, she enters each show on a giant swan. It’s the ultimate wish-fulfillment for the couch potato nutcase.
There’s a semi mean spirited nature to how the film wants the viewer to laugh at a mentally unstable woman. Alice’s program comes off as cringe-worthy the way she airs all her problems to the world. And rather than have the rest of the world laugh at her problems, the viewers of her show do something far worse - they keep watching with genuine interest. They want to know more about Alice and her story and never really consider that what’s she’s doing is destructive to her and the people around her. Her best friend is furious after Alice makes a skit about her self-image and Alice’s therapist promptly stops seeing her after she unofficially airs a session on television. Even after those incidents, nobody tries talking her out of this position. Not even her family step in to recommend that it might not be such a good idea to spew grievances on public television.
But nobody stops this woman or even naysays her clearly crazy show format. It’s really a shame that there isn’t as there could have been a unique opportunity here to examine a culture obsessed with reality television. Modern television audiences feed on staged drama and oddity examinations about people losing weight or getting over addictions. And rather than take advantage of satirizing the despicable nature of today’s television, Welcome To Me either celebrates or ignores it. There could be a message in here about the isolation of money, but it’s lost in one-note story that mostly begs the viewer to laugh at stuff you shouldn’t. One of Alice’s first financial choices is to move into a hotel, wasting her money on living there for as long as she can. Again, nobody says anything. The only people who seem vocal about her problems are the television station crew who mostly just jump ship when the director orders them to shut up based on the money they’re receiving from Alice. The only moral characters in this script and they just leave out of frustration with the situation.
Even with the decent cast additions of Tim Robbins, James Marsden and Joan Cusack, it’s entirely up to Kristen Wiig to steer this picture. As the strange and off-her-rocker Alice, Wiig is decently amusing the way she throws herself into the character. Her deadpan delivery and oblivious nature garner a few smiles, despite eventually devolving into her characters streaking through a casino in depression. But a little of her goes a long way. She can only make you uncomfortably laugh at a deeply flawed and emotional mess of a woman before it becomes just plain uncomfortable.
Welcome to Me outstays its welcome in a premise better suited for a series of a skits than one extended narrative. Kristen Wiig, try as she me might with all her comedic strength, just can’t launch such a story out of its messily dark premise. There are a few moments that made me laugh, but they’re lodged in between moments of comedy that are entirely dependent on a mental condition. I will admit that Kristen Wiig perfectly nails the sensibilities of a woman with major issues the way she showcases her frozen face and vacant eyes. She can make the laughs come a little more natural even if you feel incredibly dirty after doing so.