WELCOME TO ME
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for Shockya. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Director: Shira Piven
Screenwriter: Eliot Laurence
Cast: Kristen Wiig, Wes Bentley, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Loretta Devine, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Thomas Mann, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Alan Tudyk
Screened at: Review 1, NYC, 4/14/15
Opens: May 1, 2015
Since everyone wants to be happy, a leading question that everybody asks is: “Does money buy happiness?” A recent assortment of self-help books conclude that up to a certain amount, say $75,000 annually in a big U.S. city, an increase in dollars will create an increase in happiness. The surprise, though, is that any increase of annual pay over that will lead incrementally to a smaller dose of happiness until at a certain point, big bucks have no effect whatever. This is good news for people who had thought they should dedicate their lives to accumulating wealth, and there is evidence that a sudden stream of money given to people will make them feel ecstatic at first but will ultimately cause them to revert to their less moneyed selves.
Here’s evidence. Kristen Wiig, a comedian known to us for her roles in Saturday Night Live, performs here in the role of Alice Klieg, who has been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder, a psychological illness that manifests by impulsivity and, in Alice’s case, grandiosity. She spends a good deal of time in her California desert apartment watching “Oprah” and infomercials, but is ready to break out after winning an $86 million jackpot. Despite advice from Dr. Moffat (Tim Robbins), her laid-back psychotherapist, she goes off her meds, delivers an impromptu monologue to the camera during a TV show (which includes her impulsive statement that she had used masturbation as a sedative), then pitches her own “Oprah”-type show to producers Rich (James Marsden) and Gabe (Wes Bentley) with a $15 million check, later increased to bring in more production values. The station is glad to give her a free hand, as without the money, a new round of layoffs would be needed.
With her narcissism evoked, Alice runs everything on the stage, leaving the technical aspects to the crew which includes Jennifer Jason Leigh and a cynical Joan Cusack. “Welcome to Me,” as the show is called, is a format for Alice to talk about herself, using actors to portray—in the most stilted way—her childhood and her teens, even televising a session with her therapist, thereby causing rage among the people she slanders and a tsunami of lawsuits against her and the station.
The most comic of the skits involves her offending an animal rights group by neutering dogs on live TV (she is a graduate of a community college program in veterinary nursing, but what makes this comedy a stand-out is Wiig’s deadpan delivery. Wouldn’t you know that a prospective audience, tired of sitcoms that feature producers who demand an audience giggle every five seconds or even time a character says something that only the screenwriters could find amusing. This is dry humor at its best, and Kristen Wiig is the ideal person to carry program and indeed the entire film. Alice is the kind of person who should stop all psychotherapy: a shrink might cure her of some obsessions but in doing so would render this charming woman normal. And we wouldn’t want that.
Rated R. 86 minutes. © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online
Story – B+
Acting – B+
Technical – B
Overall – B+