Friday, May 8, 2015

Welcome to Me


This review originally appeared on SFist.com.

Welcome to Me is like a Saturday Night Live movie based on a character that really shouldn't have a back story. Would Penelope, Kristen Wiig's recurring SNL character who is always one-upping people at parties, be funnier if you found out her backstory is that she has borderline personality disorder, is a virtual shut-in, and she's just stopped taking her meds? Because that's pretty much the set-up of this indie comedy that just screams indie comedy at every step.

Wiig's Alice Klieg lives in Palm Desert, and, due to her mental illness, has a limited life and very set routine. The TV is always on, either airing infomercials or old VHS tapes of Oprah shows that she knows by heart. She visits a therapist (Tim Robbins). She buys pudding and lotto tickets at the corner store. And most of what she says comes via prepared statements she pulls out of her fanny pack.

And then she wins the lottery.

What she chooses to do with that money is the bulk of the movie: She convinces a flailing public access station, run by two brothers (James Marsden and Wes Bentley) to produce a talk show starring her, about her, and air it two hours a day, five days a week. Of course her myopic worldview makes for some funny moments--her insistence that she always make an entrance in a swan boat; sitting and eating a meat cake for 10 minutes; rehashing past hurts with badly acted reenactments. But it also makes for some really disturbing ones, like her deciding she's going to neuter dogs, live and on the air for several episodes. (She was once a veterinary assistant.)

A person as self-centered and unwilling to address her illness as Alice would likely have estranged her family and friends long ago, but in the movie they have, inexplicably, stuck by her. They include an ex-husband, played by Alan Tudyk, and a best friend, played by Linda Cardellini. Her friends, for reasons never made clear, care about Alice as more than just the source of some of uneasy laughter. But we're never given any other reason to care.

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