When Alice Klieg wins the Mega-Millions lottery, she immediately quits her psychiatric medication and buys her own talk show.
Welcome To Me
Directed by Shira Piven
Starring Kristen Wiig, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Wes Bentley
Passing me by in a busier than expected June at the Edinburgh Film Festival this year was the latest offering from Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids), directed by Shira Piven, maybe better known for her performances in Anchorman and Step Brothers rather than behind the camera calling the shots. Produced, to no great surprise really, by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, this is the story of Alice Kleig, a middle-aged woman with some over-riding mental health issues and of little importance, until that is, she wins $86 million on the lottery. A new, exciting life awaits, then.
With a considerable chunk of her new found wealth, she chooses to create her own television show, inspired by her own personal favourite Oprah Winfrey, with money no object, about nothing more than her, entitled Welcome To Me. The production team for the television show boasts a number of notable stars supporting Wiig, including James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Cusack, not forgetting her psychiatrist, Tim Robbins. Quite the cast, all told.
The projects’ greatest accolades have come from the BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) community, the mental issue featured that Alice suffers from here. These reactions have been almost universally positive and those with any experience of the condition, either as sufferer or carer/relative for sufferers, have highlighted how well Wiig has portrayed a character blighted by the disorder and how they have truly appreciated the attempt to inject a little humour into the lives of those that otherwise may be seen as lonely, unsociable misfits.
For the rest of us, unfamiliar with the condition or its symptoms, we may be forgiven for thinking that Alice is bit too quirky to be healthy and maybe a tad too needy and selfish. It’s not our fault we don’t understand it, so don’t mistake our ignorance for something more sinister or unpleasant. A stigma only becomes a stigma for those unaware of it when it is pointed out to them, after all, and that includes the rest of us clueless entertainment chasers that just came for a bit of a giggle, which let’s not forget, we are encouraged to do. I don’t want to have to check the rest of the audience’s reaction to a joke before I decide to laugh at it, however, which often doesn’t help.
Tricky then, to pull off a comedy when the audiences members don’t know when to laugh, for fear of upsetting someone more rounded (by nature of experience) than themselves.
And despite their best efforts, this is where the project stumbles. Pitched purely as a comedy, it probably isn’t funny or enjoyable enough. Wiig’s Skeleton Twins from last year did considerably better in this department and also featured our lead here as a far from confident woman suffering from emotional traumas that most of us probably didn’t really understand either. However, that project with Bill Hader was much funnier and more engaging, even if some of the content was just as sobering at times. There are laughs here too, but as I say, should we really be laughing?
Without the denouement we would hope for, the whole thing feels like something of a letdown, particularly for those that came for a guilt-free good time, who are burdened with maybe too much ‘message’ with their popcorn. With Wiig, Ferrell and McKay all attached, we would be right to expect something other than what is presented here, even knowing we should be grateful really, for having out horizons widened at least a little.
Admirable certainly and delivered very well indeed from direction through all the performances, especially from the very capable Wiig, but far from what you might rightly expect.