Welcome to Me (2015)
dir. Shira Piven
written by: Eliot Laurence
starring: Kristen Wiig, Joan Cusack, James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Linda Cardellini
3 out of 4 stars
Kristen Wiig has been a relentless force of dark independent comedy in 2015. Impressing audiences at Cannes with The Diary of a Teenage Girl and Nasty Baby, she introduced moviegoers to a more serious side of this SNL alum. On the less festival related side of things, Wiig also starred in indie comedy Welcome to Me, the surprisingly true story of Alice Klieg, a troubled woman obsessed with all things Oprah and all things about herself, who strikes it rich in a lottery win. She abandons her psychiatric treatment, moves into a casino, and starts her own talk show, a la her idol Oprah.
“I would like to read from a prepared statement,” Alice repeats during her stressful public speaking opportunities. This woman who multiple diagnoses and on-and-off mental health treatment is exposing herself in every way she can, and she washes that down with ill formed decisions for her evening plans. Wiig does not allow a single awkward moment to go unheeded. Strip and lick Thomas Mann’s chest? No problem. Plainly discuss self-pleasure as self-medication? Of course. Wiig lets herself loose to be Alice Klieg’s unstable self, but somehow she doesn’t get ridiculous, in the scope of things. She is a theatrical dream, and this role could not be mastered by another artist.
Surrounding Wiig is a talented cast with Joan Cusack, James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, and Linda Cardellini, and the cameos are even more extensive. Tim Robbins is her exhausted psychiatrist, experiencing all of her eccentricities without strangling her. Marsden, Cusack, Bentley, Leigh and Tudyk are the unfortunate staff poised to produce her self-indulgence. Bentley tries to reach Wiig’s natural comfort on screen, but much like his weak performance on American Horror Story Hotel, he lacks the talent American Beauty promised. Joan Cusack is always fun to see, and she maintains a fantastic back and forth with Klieg. Marsden is a desperate co-owner of the studio, and he aims to please, bringing some of his Hairspray charm and energy to a lacking role.
Director Shira Piven highlights writer Eliot Laurence’s sexual, dark but still humorous script with a standout cast, particularly star Kristen Wiig, who has taken off in both comedy and drama in unexpected directions this year. Able to tackle and succeed at roles that nary a fellow SNL alum could muster, Wiig keeps steamrolling every opportunity she is given, stealing the show, but in all the best ways. Her ability as a character actress is enviable among her peers and such a pleasure for her audience.