welcometome

At what point does being funny just become sad?

Welcome to Me the bizarre anti-comedy from director Shira Piven opens in limited release this week. The strange comedy becomes a one-woman show for star Kristen Wiig as she explores the depths of a severely offbeat character with extraordinary relentlessness. The journey, however, can be a bit more to bear than the laughs are worth.

Alice Klieg (Wiig) is a middle-aged woman suffering from borderline personality disorder. She refuses to take her medication despite the constant urging of her therapist (Tim Robbins) and spends most of her days lost inside the programming on her television that she never shuts off. In particular, she gravitates towards the Oprah Winfrey show, idolizing her to the point that it dominates her self-image.

When Alice wins an $86 million lottery jackpot she moves into a casino with her best friend, Gina (Linda Cardellini), but cannot help but long for a platform comparable to her idol. When she stumbles on paid programming channel, she promptly offers them a large portion of her winnings in exchange for production and airtime for her own talk show.

With her own television show in place, Alice delves deeply into her idiosyncrasies and personal lives of those closest to her. This results in a systematic alienation of her family and friends through her program and ultimately a deeper feeling of isolation for Alice.

Welcome to Me is high-concept to say the least. The film that revolves entirely around a bizarro talk show set essentially becomes a three ring circus for Wiig and she’s filling all the roles. The overarching through-line of her mental breakdown in broadcast form is an immersive experience in the offbeat unlike anything normally seen in mainstream comedies and it’s easy to see why after about five minutes living in Alice’s televised world.

The oddities of Alice’s titular television program seem almost too intimate. Things like eating a meatloaf cake for an uninterrupted fifteen minutes and onscreen amateur spays and neuters of household pets are less gags than they are portraits of a very disturbed woman’s entire psyche being broadcast through a level of transparency that finds more laughs in discomfort than it does in actual humor.

The sum total is unavoidably strange. Welcome to Me becomes less a movie and more a showcase for an incredibly unorthodox performance from Kristen Wiig and an unyielding desire to explore the depths of a depraved psyche in segment form.

It certainly functions as a commentary of the narcissistic nature of our present-day ultra-broadcast culture (through everything from social media through these types of television shows), but it misses a bit of that mark as a result of its utter dedication to the theater of the weird.

Wiig is certainly at the forefront of that weirdness and her performance is one of total dedication to a truly singular character. Throughout her career she’s shown a penchant for leaving her entire self behind and becoming a new character through total commitment and transformation. Here, she shows a depth beyond her normal sketch comedy characters and is able to explore those depths for 90 minutes. While the film simply leaves us thinking Alice is basically an undefined crazy, Wiig also leaves us thinking she has the chops to put this type of character together continually.

There’s other elements to the film as well. A nonsense romantic subplot. Comedic interplay between Alice’s friends. Silly infomercials that make up the rest of the station’s programming. All of that is just a distraction to the core of this film. Wiig’s performance and cringe comedy for a full 90 minutes in a way that it isn’t ordinarily showcased.

So who needs traditional laughs?