WELCOME TO ME

MeatloafCakeShira Piven directs this “Dark Comedy” about a mentally ill woman who wins the lottery and decides to use her sudden wealth to produce her own Oprah-esque TV show. Screenplay by Eliot Laurence. (JLH: 3/5)

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“Alice Klieg” (Kristen Wiig) is a very troubled lady. Diagnosed as mentally ill sometime in her teens, Alice has now entered her 40s with a medical record full of loosely-defined ailments and a medicine cabinet full of pills. Is she suffering from Bi-Polar Disorder? Is she suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder? Who knows?

Since Alice is living on Disability Assistance, she is required to attend regular sessions with “Dr. Moffat” (Tim Robbins), a court-ordered psychiatrist who is at his wit’s end. Is Alice taking her Abilify? Clearly not.

EDITOR’S NOTE Per the Abilify website, Abilify is prescribed for: Use as an add-on treatment for adults with depression when an antidepressant alone is not enough; Treatment of manic or mixed episodes associated with bipolar I disorder in adults and in pediatric patients 10 to 17 years of age; Treatment of schizophrenia in adults and in adolescents 13 to 17 years of age; Treatment of irritability associated with autistic disorder in pediatric patients 6 to 17 years of age…

But wait: This film stars Kristen Wiig and it is being marketed as a comedy (albeit a “Dark Comedy”). Comedy? Am I stuck in a parallel universe?!? SwanShelf

The “comedy” begins the night Alice wins the lottery and finds herself in possession of an $86 Million payout. What will she do with this sudden windfall?

Umpteen hours spent watching old Oprah Winfrey re-runs while thumbing her way through a mountain of self-help books have convinced Alice that she deserves this. It is not luck or good fortune or some fluke of fate; winning the lottery is her D*E*S*T*I*N*Y.

When Alice stumbles into a local television station that produces low budget infomercials, she sees her future: She will use her money to right all the wrongs perpetrated on her innocent self. She will hire actors to re-enact key moments from her past so she can settle old scores while strangers sit in the audience and applaud.

I wish I could laugh about all this because that’s clearly the filmmakers’ intention, but the plot is just too contrived and the outcome is too over-determined. The audience–that’s us–is mesmerized by Alice. People start filling the seats at the studio. Her cyberspace presence builds. Clearly Alice is a “performance artist,” right? No, sorry: Alice is a very sick lady who has stumbled into money, and the exploiters of this nasty world will do anything she wants as long as she keep writing checks. SwanBoat

To their credit, director Shira Piven and screenwriter Eliot Laurence have done a good job of balancing all the elements, and the story moves quickly to its inevitable ending. They have also drawn together a large cast of name actors most of whom (especially Wes Bentley and Jennifer Jason Leigh) are wasted, but a few of whom (especially Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Loretta Devine and James Marsden) manage to create coherent personalities even though their screen time is minimal.

Which brings me to Kristen Wiig… who has a lot of screen time… in fact she is in almost every scene. It’s been decades since I’ve watched Saturday Night Live on a regular basis, so Kristen Wiig edged into my consciousness in supporting roles in films like Whip It before leaping onto the A List in Bridesmaids. Unfortunately for me–I guess–I was no big fan of Bridemaids, and I’m no big fan of the “comedies” Wiig has done since. “Imogene” in Girl Most Likely is almost as dysfunctional as Alice, and I found very little to laugh at in that film either.

On the other hand, I thought Wiig was really good in the dramatic role of “Johanna Parry” in Hateship Loveship. The elegance of the screenplay–based on a story by Nobel Prize-winning author Alice Munro, kept her grounded.

In one of my favorite movie scenes ever, Barbra Streisand as “Fanny Brice” squares off against Walter Pidgeon as “Florenz Ziegfeld” in Funny Girl. Says Fanny to Flo: “They laughed with me, not at me.”

Bottom Line: There is a difference, and I’m just not comfortable rewarding Kristen Wiig for laughing at Alice Klieg.

© Jan Lisa Huttner (5/1/15)

AliceOnSofa

Top Photo: “Alice Klieg” (Kristen Wiig) makes a high protein meatloaf “cake” and then sits down and eats it on camera–for over 5 minutes–while everyone on the production team and everyone in the audience stares at her in disbelief.

Middle Photo #1: Alice is so obsessed with swans…

Middle Photo #2: that she arrives on set in a Swan Boat!

Bottom Photo: Alice in her apartment, surrounded by VHS tapes and swan paraphernalia.

Photo Credits: Suzanne Hanover © Alchemy.

Q: Does Welcome to Me pass the Bechdel Test? RedA

Yes!

Alice only has one genuine relationship and that is her relationship with her BFF “Gina” (Linda Cardellini). Why Gina puts up with Alice for as long as she does is somewhat of a mystery, but Linda Cardellini gives Gina a sweet gentleness that made me believe in her despite myself.PennyRantsIT MUST BE SAID: When I saw the photos of Kristen Wiig in a swan boat, I was thrilled. After all, I write as a Feminist under the nom de guerre “Penny” because a “pen” is a female swan.

I am the creative force behind the WITASWAN project (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now).  I am the co-creator of International SWAN Day (Support Women Artists Now). This blog is called “The Hot Pink Pen.” I own just as many swan tchotchkes as Alice does and maybe even more.

So if I were smart, I would recommend Welcome to Me–one of the few highly-buzzed films of 2015 to date that was directed by a woman fimmaker–because it is clearly in my own best interest to do so. I really wish I could… but I can’t 🙁

Tags: Abilify, Barbra Streisand, Eliot Laurence, FF2 Media, Hateship Loveship, Jan Lisa Huttner, Kristen Wiig, Linda Cardellini, Shira Piven, Tim Robbins, Welcome to Me, WomenArts

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  1. Avatar
    • Claire Stewart
    • October 27, 2015
    Reply

    What a pity that critically this film on much of the internet forums cannot embrace a fresh look at challenging stigma and political correctness. All most are concerned about is her diagnosis in the film rather than an interesting unconventional story where the ‘star’, Alice confronts life on her own terms. To thine own self be true . Funny. Loved it.

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