Kristen Wiig is, to me, one of the best comic actors working at this moment. Not only is she uproariously funny, but she’s also just great at embodying any character. And that’s why I expected great things from Welcome To Me, a movie that seemed designed to showcase her with material that would veer between the comic and the serious.
Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a mentally-unbalanced woman who has the great fortune of winning a huge lottery prize. And by huge I MEAN huge. Just think about how you would spend $86M, because that is the amount we’re talking about here. Whatever your plans, I’m pretty sure that they will differ from those of the main character here. Having kept herself company with TV for many years, she decides that she wants to make her own show. And there’s a small, local TV network more than willing to take her money in exchange for the airtime. What starts out as an almost painful oddity soon becomes a bit of a cult, yet it’s hard to see if the whole process is helping Alice or simply undoing years of staggered therapy.
There’s a good movie to enjoy here. If you can get through the more uncomfortable scenes without cringing too much. Unfortunately, the potential to make the whole thing something truly great is wasted. Frustratingly enough, it’s hard to put my finger on just what the film does wrong, apart from perhaps get to the end credits without the feeling that those involved have been changed in any way by their experiences. Maybe that’s enough, and maybe things are exacerbated by a script that fails to provide either big enough laughs or powerful enough moments of emotional pain.
Wiig is, as expected, superb in the lead role, making the failings of the film all the more irritating. And she’s given support by a cast that mixes some relatively fresher faces (James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Wes Bentley) with some veterans (Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh), and then treats viewers to some Alan Tudyk, who is always a treat to watch. Marsden and Bentley are particularly good in their roles, playing two brothers with two very different views on running a TV station, but Cardellini deserves praise for portraying a best friend who puts up with way more than most people would.
The direction from Shira Piven is competent enough, if unspectacular, and the script by Eliot Laurence the same. Which leads me to believe that their work is the reason that the film never hits the heights it should. It’s always tricky to know just how far to go with material of this nature, material that has mental illness at its core. But it’s also important to take the opportunity, if available, to make something thought-provoking, or life-affirming, or even just shocking and hilarious. Welcome To Me does none of that.
Welcome To Me is showing on the 21 and 23 June at EIFF 2015.
DIRECTOR: SHIRA PIVEN
WRITER: ELIOT LAURENCE
STARS: KRISTEN WIIG, JAMES MARSDEN, LINDA CARDELLINI, WES BENTLEY, JOAN CUSACK, TIM ROBBINS
RUNTIME: 87 MINS APPROX