Directed by: Shira Piven | 87 minutes | comedy, drama | Actors: Kristen Wiig, Wes Bentley, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Thomas Mann, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Alan Tudyk, Kulap Vilaysack, Mitch Silpa, Anelia Dyoulgerova, Joe Roland, Joyce Hiller Piven, Jack Wallace, Rose Abdoo
You sometimes wonder about some people, why are they actually famous? What can they do so well that they have their own television program, usually in the form of a “real life soap”? Whatever hundreds of thousands of people look at. Types like “Barbie”, Roy Donders and, more internationally, the entire Kardashian family are only famous because they have passed the shame and have their whole slash captured by cameras. What the madness of fame can do to you, they are the living examples. The film “Welcome to Me” (2014) actually takes the exact opposite starting point. The main character is actually crazy before she gets her own television show. For the sake of convenience, let’s assume that this does not apply to the examples mentioned above …
“Welcome to Me” is about Alice Krieg (Kristen Wiig), who clearly has a personality disorder. She spends her days in her pitch-dark apartment watching countless episodes of Oprah Winfrey’s talk show, which she recorded and all of which she now knows by heart. It may be clear that Alice does not have them all listed and regularly visits her psychologist Daryl (Tim Robbins). But now she hasn’t taken her medication for quite some time, and that makes Daryl a little worried. Especially when Alice suddenly wins the top prize in a lottery and with her 86 million dollars just won, gets the brilliant idea to buy her own airtime. The local channel, led by the Ruskin brothers (James Marsden and Wes Bentley), agrees because they can use its millions very well. And so Alice goes wild with her own talk show, which is all about… herself! Even though the more experienced colleagues (Joan Cusack and Jennifer Jason Leigh) are not happy about that and her ex-husband (Alan Tudyk) and best friend (Linda Cardellini) would have preferred Alice to do other things with her money.
What is really nice about Welcome to Me, besides the original premise, is that Alice is tackling her deepest emotional and psychological problems in front of her viewers, live on television. At first sight it is all very funny, as we are used to from Kristen Wiig. For example, Alice demands that she enter the stage on a big boat in the form of a swan every episode and youthful actresses are chartered to reenact trauma from a distant past. Hilarious everywhere, but “Welcome to Me” also has a much more tragic side. Kristen Wiig portrays the borderline Alice with great conviction. One moment the straight face is there, the next she bursts into a ferocious rant. The bizarre scenes that the broadcasts of her talk show produce are “jaw dropping”; not only for us as viewers but also for Alice’s colleagues who look behind the scenes in disbelief. And her antics are getting crazier. Plenty of room for Wiig to show what she has to offer. The disadvantage of this is that the rest of the cast – not the least of names – play second fiddle.
Director Shira Piven (the sister of actor Jeremy Piven), for whom this is only the second film after “Fully Loaded” from 2011, knows very well how to keep the balance between comedy and tragedy and that is precisely what makes this film surprisingly strong. Kristen Wiig once again proves that she is one of the best female comedians of our time and certainly shows that she can handle more layered roles here. “Welcome to Me” is nice and contrary and is very well put together. One of the better satires of the year.