by MIA NGUYEN
Welcome to Me
dir. Shira Piven
It’s an emotional time for Kristen Wiig as an actress. After leaving Saturday Night Live in 2012, she has become a front woman in emotional independent films. In Welcome to Me, Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a single woman suffering from borderline personality disorder. Wiig’s expressions are always stagnant. Her mien is camera ready at all times. The state of her apartment is trapped in a perpetual state of the 90s, fully furnished with an eclectic fanfare of swan figurines and slew of VHS tapes. Daytime television is conveniently hypnotic for Alice’s secluded lifestyle. She finds solace in watching reruns of Oprah on VHS. She can’t be faulted, Oprah’s voice is meditative.
The question, “What would you do with a million dollars?” usually lends itself in situations where people have nothing better to talk about. It’s self-aggrandizing to flaunt fame and fortune. There are people who consider gambling as a frivolous hobby, merely a waste of time and money, but according to Alice, the chances of winning the lottery can be achieved with the proper mindset.
After hitting the $86 million California jackpot, Alice makes a public appearance on TV with a “prepared statement” where she seeks the attention and validation for which she has been yearning. She’s glimmering with hope. Everything she has done has led up to this moment.
Her televised speech is shortly cut off by a commercial after the line: “I’ve been using masturbation as sedative since 1991.” Unable to fathom the thought of going on unnoticed, she makes another television appearance to restate her speech. She transitions from one state to another with a turbulent force.
Alice’s therapist Dr. Moffat (Tim Robbins) is a laidback man, but he has strict boundaries. There’s a scene where Dr. Moffat kindly asks Alice not to eat during their session. She retorts with a simple answer: “It’s in its own container.” Wiig allows her character to be infused with humor, but doesn’t devalue the overall portrayal of borderline personality disorder. After Alice exploits Dr. Moffat on her talk show, he has no qualms letting her go as a patient.
With $86 million dollars to play with, she fulfills her lifelong dream of being a talk show host just like Oprah. Television producer Rich (James Marsden) uses Alice to help protect the financial constraints of the company. James Marsden’s performance is soft and charismatic, like a cashmere sweater. Rich’s brother Gabe (Wes Bentley) takes quickly to Alice’s eccentric personality and finds her attractive.
Even though Rich finds his brother’s motives exploitative, he continues to pursue Alice romantically. On their first date, she quickly establishes a sexual relationship between the two in back of the bowling alley. When Alice invites him over, he discovers she sleeps with a sleeping bag on her bed. It doesn’t stop him; he could care less.
Each episode of “Welcome to Me” is filmed in front of a live studio audience. In the pilot, she makes a grand appearance in a swan. (Swans symbolize beauty and grace.) She tries her best to mimic these qualities to her fullest in order to be perceived this way. She is her own master. Alice invites us into her world, focusing on her childhood traumas and woes. She hires a slew of actors to reenact the people from her past but doesn’t think anyone is competent enough to perform her vision.
The show is the exact opposite of Oprah. It’s exploitative and risky. She slanders everyone in her life, including her best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini). Alice is unable to see all the hurtful things she has done. After spilling the boiling contents of a crockpot over herself on television, she is too consumed by the situation to shed an ounce of sympathy for Gina’s despair. Gina hits her breaking point and rails on Alice for her selfish behavior, but Alice is unable to process her words. During recovery, Alice retreats to her hotel room at the casino with a bunch of dogs. As a result, Alice has a mental breakdown, baring it all, emotionally and physically.
Despite the uncomfortable challenges, Welcome to Me sheds light on border personality disorder without poking fun at it. You can’t turn away Kristen Wiig’s performance, even if you try.
Mia Nguyen is the features editor of This Recording.
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