On a rainy day, when you want to see a movie, but a good one, not one of the big Hollywood blockbusters, but you don’t recognize any of the movies at the local art house theater, you just have to trust the art house theater owners and see something somewhat randomly. Thus it was for me with Welcome To Me, starring, and just dominated by, Kristen Wiig playing Alice Klieg, a bi-polar recluse and Oprah fan, who decides to go off her meds, and then—absurdly yes, but that’s the point—wins the lottery. What does she do with all that money? (don’t worry, this isn’t much of a spoiler—it happens in the first five minutes) she buys herself a TV show on a local cable channel. When they ask her what her show will be about, she replies, “Me.”
And so, once a week, but soon daily, for two hours, it becomes a show about her, about anything she’s thinking about, from childhood grievances, to pseudo-high-protein-diets. In the meantime, off screen, she’s a mess, making bad decisions everywhere, but that’s the genius of the story, by Eliot Laurence, that we’re both laughing at her, and with her, because the bad decisions she makes? We’ve all made them too. In fact, Welcome to Me questions what exactly craziness is. There’s no doubt that Alice is, and that’s she’s gone down the rabbit hole, but most of the people around her, who are supposedly more like ‘us,’ are all at the Mad Tea Party too.
The only way Alice can get away with all this is, well, she’s rich, which is another question Welcome to Me raises: are the rich people making the decisions about and about our country not perhaps a little crazy too? Are not, at least, the ‘creators’ of movies and TV shows? And yet, we love it: we love Hollywood, we love our current political mess, and we’re like the audience that soon begins to fill the studios for Alice’s show: expecting/wanting a train wreck, but also strangely moved and affected by moments of real humanity.
Along with Wiig, the supporting cast is just great, with James Marsden as her co-dependant love interest, and the voices of reason of Welcome to Me, those that recognize that Alice is batshit crazy, Tim Robbins as her therapist, who you want to dislike, but can’t quite, because…well, he’s right. And two pleasant surprises in Jennifer Jason Leigh and Joan Cusack, who are kind of the ‘straight men’ to Alice’s manic-ness. Cusack in particular has always been one of my favorites, and she’s perfect here, because even though she recognizes that Alice is crazy and the whole situation is crazy, she accepts it with a shrug and a bunch of snide comments, as if, well, what else would one expect from anything in the TV world?
So don’t wait for a rainy day! Welcome to Me to a smart comedy that is also a drama that will take you for ups and downs, just like, and along with, Alice.