Kristen Wiig’s performance in The Skeleton Twins mesmerised me at last year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival. She returns this year in Welcome to Me – a satirical comedy about the narcissism of American daytime television culture by director Shira Piven. Maintaining a constant absurdity but also delighting with some serious straight-faced, dry wit, Welcome to Me is a weird and wonderful commentary about contemporary America which grows on you over time. Since seeing it, I’ve found myself liking it more and more. Wiig is explosive as Alice Klieg, a sufferer of borderline personality order and a pretty dire friend. We start with a television screen. Always on, Alice’s TV is her greatest comfort. We first meet her as she sits on her living room floor reciting an old episode of the Opera Winfrey Show which plays from an old VHS tape. Isolated by her mental illness and her inability to react rationally to certain events or process complex emotion, Alice finds comfort in daytime television. Yet there are family and friends by her side as well as her committed, frustrated doctor and therapist (Tim Robbins). When Alice wins $87 million on the lottery her friendships, relationships and well-being is strained by her decision to buy her own TV talk show. First and foremost Welcome to Me is supposed to be funny but, much like The Skeleton Twins, it is the themes of mental illness and human fragility that will stay with you.
Alice is the host, writer, artistic director and only subject of her show ‘Welcome to Me’. The shoddy execution and production value never phases Alice who will simply pay what it takes to be the face of daytime television. The interesting thing is that Alice is never concerned about ratings, audience numbers or reception. Her show is a meditative exercise in self-indulgence. Replacing pills with performances for the cameras – 5 days a week – Alice soon finds herself on a rocky road to self-destruction. Always dry, witty and bonkers Welcome to Me is both a creative speculation on American TV culture but it’s also a deeply disconcerting look at mental illness, complicated further by the film’s comical lens. I can understand that this is a film which could disconcert many audiences. The risky combination of asking an audience to laugh at someone whilst also addressing their personal struggles is a dangerous but deeply intelligent move. Perfectly meta and wonderfully judgemental of modern day couch potato-ism, Welcome to Me features fiery performances from James Marsden, Joan Cusack and Linda Cardellini. Unapologetic absurdity with a splash of hilarity, Welcome to Me delights.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.