So, I have taken some time lately to catch up on my movie watching. Usually I just catch something that is in the theaters, or just troll Netflix for movies or television shows to watch. I should be keeping tabs on what I watch, and I’ll probably do so in the future.
On Monday, a national holiday, I had plenty of time to watch movies since I was off from work. I decided to go an “unconventional route” to watch movies and began choosing what to watch. The first movie I watched was the 2014 Kristen Wiig vehicle, Welcome to Me. This movie is about a woman, Alice, with borderline personality disorder who is on medical disability and spends her days watching old Oprah episodes on VHS. One day, she wins $86 million and decides to create her own talk show about her life.
Welcome to Me is produced by many people, but two big names attached are Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, whose wife, Shira Piven, directs the movie. The tone of the flick is kind of off-kilter from the beginning, probably by design, and there are moments where this woman would be the star of her own rom-com in the 90s – if she weren’t mentally ill.
I don’t personally know anyone with borderline personality disorder, but her skewed view on the world, lack of social filter, and somewhat reckless behavior seems like plenty of people I know, so perhaps I do know some mentally ill people after all. Alice spends her lottery winnings trying to right the wrongs of her life, not through altruism, but by having avatars re-enact key traumatic moments in Alice’s life on camera, only to have her jump in and rage at the actors. She even mocks her lifelong friend by hiring an obese woman to portray her average sized friend, implying her friend’s aversion to bikinis as a sign of weight insecurity.
Alice isn’t a complete monster, but her reckless behavior take its toll on her and others around her. She spends most of the movie trying to find ways to help others through her show, which has become a minor local success, and somehow manages to poke fun of the superficial self-help on daytime television. As a character, Alice is downright despicable at times, and at other times wounded and hurt, teetering on destruction. It’s hard at times to empathize with Alice, but I think that if the viewer takes everything that she goes through at face value, the movie is unbearable.
There is an absurdist quality to the movie that makes it all gel together. And if anyone else but Kristen Wiig was cast as Alice, the movie would probably fail altogether because there is a sort of mania that Wiig seems to communicate through each character she plays. But more importantly, she has a vulnerability that even when she’s outright berating someone, you can see that it is coming from pain and she doesn’t even know what she’s doing.
There is a pervasive cringe quality that also exists in shows like The Office, Wilfred, and Eastbound and Down that kept me watching Welcome to Me. Throughout the movie, you know the interactions between characters will be somewhat acrimonious, but ultimately productive for the characters. There is also some catharsis during the finale that for me was satisfying, considering the journey that Alice took at the expense of others.