Welcome to Me

Welcome to MeSynopsis: A woman with borderline personality disorder (Kristen Wiig) wins the Mega-Millions and—much to the dismay of her parents, therapist, gay ex-husband and local TV station—uses the winnings to fund her lifelong dream of becoming the next Oprah.

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Welcome to Me 8.0

eyelights: Kristen Wiig’s performance. its commentary on our narcissistic society and mental health.
eyesores: its facile happy ending.

“I was a summer baby born in 1971 in Simi Valley, California, and I’ve been using masturbation as a sedative since 1991.”

‘Welcome to Me’ is the story of a woman suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder who wins an 86 million dollar lottery and proceeds to indulge in her fantasy of becoming a motivational talk-show hostess. Starring Kristen Wiig, it’s a dark comedy that observes the impact that her newly unfettered self-absorption has on her friends, family, colleagues and the viewing public.

I walked into the picture knowing nothing about it. I may have known that Wiig was the star, but I didn’t even remember the movie’s title. A friend of mine, who it must be said is a social worker and therapist, really wanted to see it, and I was I invited to accompany her. I’m really glad that I did because ‘Welcome to Me’ is one of the most memorable motion pictures I’ve seen in recent times.

Alice Klieg lives for and through Oprah and her easy-peasy motivational messages. She’s off her meds, despite the reservations of her psychiatrist, and after winning the lottery is convinced that it’s not mere luck – that it’s because she believed in herself and that it was her new mental focus that has changed her life. After seeing an infotainment show, she feels compelled to convey that message to the world.

Utterly self-absorbed and narcissistic, Alice drops millions into securing 100 two-hour episodes that are all about her, her hobbies, her beliefs and her life. The only reason the station goes ahead is because they’re in such financial trouble that firings loom. So, despite some of the team’s deep reservations, some of whom have immediately pinpointed her as being disturbed, they take the paycheque.

Although she has big dreams of being the next Oprah, Alice doesn’t benefit from the same budget and taste to make it happen. She’s more like a grade schooler whose dreams have been realized; she’s one of those people who think they’re talented when it’s clear to everyone else that they’re not. Part of the humour stems from this, but I felt bad for her because she’s not self-aware or well enough to know better.

Basically, it’s like watching a train wreck unfold before you: She cooks weird meals and eats them live, in real time. She makes allegations about people she feels wronged her in the past (putting their pictures up for everyone to see). She neuters her dogs live. Inevitably, the station gets piles of lawsuits – which is the final straw for them, after dealing with her every demand and seeing staff quit left and right.

I was fascinated and horrified at once: both curious to see what would come next and disturbed by seeing a person who clearly needs help have multiple uncontrolled episodes on live television – to the dismay of all her friends and family. And the devotion of a few fans. It was impossible not to laugh at the quirks and the next outrage, but I also found it sad to watch. So the two came in conflict and it made for a curious mix.

The whole cast is quite good, but Kristen Wiig is fantastic here: she was able to bridge the humour and drama exceptionally well. She even managed to express to perfection little subtleties like Alice’s way of reading or saying certain words inaccurately. If there was ever any doubt in anyone’s mind that she is a good actress, this film should dispel any such notion; she is far more talented than one might have imagined.

After the picture, my friend and I discussed the value of what Alice was going through, this sort of unfettered self-actualization: she did exactly what she wanted, expressed herself exactly how she wanted, without any reserve, and did these things without concern for what others think. There’s freedom in that, and my friend quite admired that quality in her. Society requires conformity and Alice is a sort of non-conformist.

However, I was concerned by the fact that she was so self-absorbed, so focused on her own self-expression that she forgot other people’s feelings; she became a jerk. She didn’t mean to be, she’s not a mean person; she’s just so wounded and fragmented that she lives in her own pain and the exhilaration of its release. Others simply become collateral damage – especially when given this much freedom and power.

It’s very representative of the type of society we live in now: greater numbers of people suffer from mental health issues (or so it seems) and/or a need to find validation through narcissistic media exposure – as though we can only find acceptance outside of ourselves and from people we don’t actually know. We believe these people love us for the real us, even though they barely know us. Ironically, they love an image, a creation.

Not us.

In some ways, ‘Welcome to Me’ is a present day entry in the same genre as ‘Network‘ or ‘Being There‘: satirical fantasies about our relationship with the media, each of them focused on a character with mental and/or emotional troubles. Granted, it takes a very different tack than these others did, deriving its humour from the darkest areas of the soul, but it speaks equally to a great societal ill.

‘Welcome to Me’ is a terrific film, but I had a difficult time with the mixing of humour and dramatic aspects of the picture. I walked out of the film feeling a bit sad, even though I’d laughed a lot. Very strange indeed. It might just be me; likely most people wouldn’t have the same reaction. So I would certainly recommend seeing it; it satirizes modern North American neuroses in a fairly intelligent and accurate way.

It’s a timely picture; it certainly leaves much food for thought.

Date of viewing: June 7, 2015

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