When I first saw the trailer for Welcome to Me I was immediately intrigued. Mental health is a fairly under represented topic in film and the character of Alice is probably one of the most unique I’ve seen in a long time. With this in mind I was very excited when it was announced that the movie would be showing at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. I went in with high expectations and thankfully I wasn’t disappointed.
Welcome To Me stars Kristen Wiig as Alice Klieg, a woman living with borderline personality disorder. When Alice wins 86 million dollars, she uses her lottery winnings to produce a show all about her (Warning there are spoilers ahead).
As I said earlier Alice is truly distinctive, I really can’t compare her to any other character I’ve ever seen in a movie. It’s what makes this film so special. She can go from kooky to depressed to aggressive in a matter of minutes. This is particularly seen in the reenactments of her past experiences on her show. Those reenactments also provided some of the most hilarious moments of the film. Alice screaming profanities at a very confused actress is comedy gold. Obviously her behaviour and quick personality shifts are down to her condition which is really well represented in the movie. For this I have to praise writer Eliot Laurence, director Shira Piven, and Kristen Wiig herself. There was a danger that Alice’s outbursts and eccentricities would alienate the audience, simply because we could not identify with what she was thinking and feeling. But Wiig portrays her in such a way that we instantly connect with her. She makes the character very likeable whilst also bringing a lot of depth and emotion. But then again I suspected nothing less from the outstanding Kristen Wiig.
The film is also augmented by an extremely talented supporting cast including Linda Cardellini as Alice’s best friend, James Marsden as the studio head, Tim Robbins as her therapist and the always brilliant Alan Tudyk as her gay ex-husband. But it’s Joan Cusack and Wes Bentley that really stand out. Cusack who in my opinion is an incredibly underrated actress is hilarious as the permanently frustrated programme director who whilst struggling with Alice’s quirks seems to genuinely care for and like her. Wes Bentley is simply brilliant as the amiable and mild mannered co-owner of the studio, and later her lover. The vulnerability which he brings to the role actually eclipses Alice’s and makes his character easily the most likeable in the film. I just wish we had gotten to see more of him. His admission about his numerous divorces and the statement that he “loved too much” really opened up his character for exploration. Yet it never really materialised. But then again maybe that’s because the Welcome to Me is about Alice not Gabe.
As such we really get a close look into Alice’s so called “journey”. However the thing I love most about the film is that she doesn’t go through some major personality overhaul. Yes, she realises she has made some mistakes and hurt those closest to her, growing as a person because of it. But she still remains herself. In fact she’s very similar to the Alice we see at the beginning of the film which I think is actually a good thing. It makes the character and film more realistic and as such a better story. In fact the most major change in Alice actually comes in the final shot where she turns off the television that she’s had on for 11 years. It’s a great ending, mostly because the open ended nature of it leaves the audience to come to their own conclusions about what happens next in Alice’s story. It’s also a very hopeful and uplifting outcome, and I was left feeling very satisfied when leaving the cinema.
If I had one complaint about Welcome to Me it’s that at 88 minutes the film is too short. Maybe that’s unfair. What I mean to say is that there was plenty of room for more story. The secondary characters were so interesting that it would have been great to see more focus on them and their back stories. And Kristen Wiig was so good as Alice that I would’ve been happy to see more of her antics. It’s really a compliment to the film. The truth is that I was enjoying it so much that I didn’t want to end. But perhaps in the end it was better to leave us wanting more as opposed to dragging out the narrative. Quality over quantity, as they say.
Welcome to Me was a great insight into someone suffering with borderline personality disorder. It highlighted a very important mental issue while also providing us with a very funny and entertaining movie. Definitely one not to miss!