"uneven and uncertain of its own ideas, and, despite an excellent turn by Kristen Wiig, never finds the balance between comedy and drama"
Welcome to Me, directed by Shira Piven and starring Kristin Wiig, is an odd little drama that seems confused as to its tone. Although it has flashes of inventiveness, it also tackles a lesser known and sensitive subject in a way that is highly unclear, leaving you wondering about the intentions of the creators behind the scenes.
The film follows the character of Alice Kleig (Wiig), a woman obsessed with old Oprah Winfrey shows. Long diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, the effects of the illness on her life are thrown into greater prominence when she becomes a lottery winner overnight. Alice knows exactly how she wants to spend the money - by creating a talk show that is all about her own life and thoughts.
Borderline personality disorder is largely misunderstood and underrepresented in the media. For example, Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction is meant to have the disorder, as is the tyrannical Kathy Bates in Misery. I think it can be fairly concluded that neither are very fair, nor very complimentary representations of a complex illness that many people live with in their day-to-day lives.
This film comes on leaps and bounds from those representations. Alice is genuinely an earnest, imaginative individual capable of loving relationships, and the illness is simply an addition to her life, not something that creates her. However, some scenes stretch themselves out to emphasise her differences unnecessarily, and all of her traits read more like a complete list of all the symptoms, particularly of a disorder that in real life, varies among those diagnosed.
Other reviewers have struggled with Welcome to Me too. Justin Chang at Variety stated that ‘borderline personality disorder turns out to be more of a laughing matter than it should be’, whilst Richard Brody of the New Yorker complained that it suffered from being an ‘earnest disease-of-the-week comic drama.'
As for myself, I think the biggest issue comes from its uneven tone, where those behind the film have been unclear about what the film is meant to say. Is it using the disorder for comedy or is it looking at the lack of opportunities that those with the disorder have to get involved in the media? An hour-and-a-half of watching and I was none the wiser.
Furthermore, without a wider release we might not get the perspectives of those who potentially could relate or bring their own understanding because in the end, that’s an important way to assess the accuracy of its portrayal. I knew a little about the disorder beforehand and was interested in learning more afterwards, yet I was watching it through intense awareness of my larger ignorance.
In regards to everything else, however, Wiig’s performance is great. It also features an honest portrayal of a female friendship in regards to Alice and her pal Gina (Linda Cardellini). They argue but support each other intensely, and Welcome to Me nails it just as Bridesmaids did, a film lauded for its honesty about women.
Welcome to Me is uneven and uncertain of its own ideas, and, despite an excellent turn by Kristen Wiig, never finds the balance between comedy and drama. If it wants to portray Borderline personality disorder in a better light than other films then it’s undoubtedly done it, but whether it handles it entirely realistically or sensitively is debatable. For a disorder that sadly rarely makes an appearance on-screen, the wait goes on for it to be a part of a truly great modern film.