EIFF 2015 – Welcome to Me

Dir: Shira Piven

Welcome to Me is a strange one. It’s produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay’s company Gary Sanchez, and stars Kristen Wiig, but it’s far from a broad comedy. The film revolves around Alice Klieg, who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, and is currently off her meds. She has many obsessions, among them videotaped episodes of Oprah, buying state lottery tickets, and high protein diets. When she finally wins big on the lottery, she is able to pursue her dreams of stardom. She convinces a floundering production company specialising in infomercials to give her her own live TV show. The subject of the show is Alice Klieg; her thoughts, inspirations, and bitter on-going feuds with a number of enemies. Alice calls the show Welcome to Me.

Alice’s low-budget, bizarre show are the funniest sections of the film. Her surreal monologues and segments (with titles like ‘Smelling Things Before They Happen’) raise the most laughs. The tone in the rest of the film can be off-putting. The target for the comedy should be the production company, who cynically facilitate a mentally ill woman’s wishes to make money. Or maybe Alice’s growing audience, who cheerfully watch this trainwreck without much outrage. Whatever commentary the film tries to make about these facets of popular culture, it’s shoved aside to focus on Alice herself, for better or worse.

There has been some criticism directed towards the film over its depiction of Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD can manifest itself in many forms, but still, a debate can be had about how the film gets it right or wrong. It’s a film that raises more questions than it answers.

The fact that Welcome to Me strays so far from the typical comedy comfort-zone means it’s difficult to recommend. What will repel some will attract others, though. It’s far more complex and thoughtful than most comedies, and the cast (also featuring Linda Cardinelli, Joan Cusack and Tim Robbins) are all great. A fascinating, but unsettling film.

***

Stuart Addison

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