'Welcome to Me' Review: Like It Or Not, Kristen Wiig Has Become Her Own Genre
Depending on who you talk to (and who you are), Kristen Wiig has either found her niche or found a rut. Since she left SNL, she’s launched a truly impressive film career. She carved out a brand for herself in Bridesmaids as a woman who can bring depth and honesty to mainstream comedy, and then flipped that brand with The Skeleton Twins, bringing an off-kilter lightness to seriously dark material. Welcome to Me is definitely more in line with the latter of those two, and very much in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from Wiig: brutal honest relatability in equal parts hilarity and darkness.
Welcome to Me is the story of Alice Klieg, a woman living with borderline personality disorder, obsessed with swans and Oprah, who one day, after basically living the same day every day of her adult life, wins an $86 million lottery jackpot. Rather than take the advice of her best friend (Linda Cardellini), her now-out gay ex husband (Alan Tudyk), or her lovingly oblivious parents, she invests nearly all of her new money in the production of her own basic cable talk show. She doesn’t want guests, and she doesn’t care about the news or current events. All she wants to talk about is herself. Yet as self-indulgent and narcissistic as that sounds (and, honestly, is), it’s also fascinating. By far, the most engaging parts of this movie are the episodes of Alice’s Welcome to Me. The show-within-a-movie is completely bonkers, the ramblings of a woman with too much money and no mental or emotional filters, and therefore— not at all surprisingly— also a show that we would all build our DVR schedules around. Watching a woman spontaneously shout and cry at (and uncomfortably hug) the reenactors she’s hired to play out formative scenes from her youth, or even just watching her eat a huge slice of disgusting-looking meatloaf cake in real time— this is a show we would watch. And love. And Kristen Wiig is the perfect blend of ridiculousness and bleak reality to pull it all off. Plus, we just happen to have the added bonus of watching the incredible supporting cast of James Marsden, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and a seriously damaged Wes Bentley run Alice’s show, and run it into the ground.
If you have problems with Welcome to Me, they’re likely to be the same problems you had with Skeleton Twins, and probably Bridesmaids. Kristen Wiig seems to be gravitating toward a certain type of script: one that meanders and lags, but that is easily held together by her own pure charisma. Welcome to Me undoubtedly has failings. It is disjointed; it wanders. And while Wiig is certainly talented enough to shine in stronger contexts, for now she seems happy to play the overly talented big fish in her own small ponds. Her take on Alice’s struggle with mental illness is irreverent and over the top, but executed with 100% care and love. The story of such an imbalanced person is inherently fraught with dangers of caricaturization. But Wiig’s Alice is a surprise— she is delightful, yet brutally honest. These types of emotionally naïve roles are usually innocently virginal, but Alice is complexly and comically, though still realistically sexual, and very much an adult. Thanks to the weird darkly cartoonish version of humanity Wiig brings to the role— and all her roles— Alice is a person we want to spend 90 minute getting to know. The material supporting her may not always warrant it— it may wander and even fall apart entirely at its most crucial moments, but it’s honestly hard to notice, given who’s at the helm. Hopefully Wiig will graduate on to stronger scripts soon, but she positively kills it with everything she’s given to work with in the meantime.