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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Kristen Wiig Just Barely Saves the Otherwise Unremarkable Dramedy, WELCOME TO ME

I've gotta hand it to Kristen Wiig. It can't be easy to shed such a recognizable brand of comedy (some might even call it goofy) and reinvent yourself as a "serious" dramatic actress. I know I have even considered her dramatic turns wooden and simply unconvincing. Not because she was strictly known as a comedienne, but because she never quite fit in to any of the dramatic roles she so desperately tried to portray (see The Skeleton Twins). But in WELCOME TO ME, she may be finally close to finding her groove.

And the funny thing is, it took a satire to bring it out of her. Though I hesitate to even call this film satirical, because that would imply that it is smart. It's not--not consistently anyway. Which is unfortunate because the beginning is so strong, it pulls you in right away. Then kinda drops you off about halfway in. You see, WELCOME TO ME, is hindered by is incessant need to say so many things at once things that it ends up not saying anything at all. Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a woman suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, who spends most her days either watching hours of The Oprah Winfrey Show or reveling in her daily minutiae seated on her therapist's couch. That is, until the day she wins the lottery. That's the day she also decides to abandon her reclusive existence and live out her life on the small screen as the host and subject of her own talk show. With the support of her best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini, who deserves better than this), Alice finds a studio greedy enough to ignore her obviously ridiculous idea (garnished with swan entrances and biographical reenactments) in order to cash in on her newfound cash.

You're probably wondering  how someone in her condition could handle being the star, writer and sole creative talent of a major network TV show. At this point in the film, I assumed that screenwriter Eliot Lawrence would take us through an allegory of our obsession with watching trainwrecks on TV. But no, the film isn't so much about the exploitative nature of media; Alice tries to use it as a new version of therapy, a way to reconcile her past hangups and, presumably, find solace in front of the camera.  This isn't really plain stated in the story, which is why I said "presumably." The plot is rather rushed and almost egregiously sentimental in its latter half, only serving as its own punchline and therefore destroying what potential it had to really make a statement.

However, Wiig manages to be the only bright spot in this otherwise silly film. While she doesn't really humanize Alice, Wiig delivers an impressive blend of awkwardness, humor and pathos that elevates the story, even though it isn't enough to mask its flaws. Supporting cast James Marsden, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Wes Bentley and Joan Cusack are all serviceable as the show's desperate producers, though together their characters are written as mere ornaments that are more forgettable than anything else.

WELCOME TO ME is a film that is as strange as it is empty, yet will hopefully provide a launching pad for Wiig to better dramedies in the near future.

Rating: D+ (** out of*****)

WELCOME TO ME hits theaters Friday, May 1.


Anonymous said...

I was afraid of this. It looks like it has potential to be great...and yet sadly it appears that it drops the ball.

Big Screen Small Words said...

Wiig does have trouble finding her footing in dramatic roles (I think she improved in The Skeleton Twins, though). I'm not really hopeful for her in this one, but I'm still going to give this one a go.

Brittani Burnham said...

I'm not crazy about Wiig in her dramadies either. I liked The Skeleton Twins quite a bit, but she was the weakest link, and I hated Girl Most Likely. I'll probably skip this one.

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