“Oh, and I want to come in on a swan boat.”
Welcome to Me, directed by Shira Piven and starring Kristen Wiig, is a strange, polarising film. The story follows Alice Krieg, a former veterinary nurse diagnosed with borderline personality disorder who lives through her television. Alice sees her life drastically altered after winning $86 million in the local lottery and is soon presented with an opportunity to host her own show just like her hero, Oprah Winfrey.
The show, from which the film borrows its title, is a bizarre display of introspection and indulgence. Through this chaotic spectacle, Alice attempts to reckon with her life while further isolating those closest to her.
What’s most notable about Welcome to Me is its authentic portrayal of a woman with a mental illness. Life hasn’t always been kind to Alice, but her capability to be selfish and thoughtless isn’t something the film shies away from either. Even the endless patience of her best friend Gina runs out eventually.
Shira Piven skillfully ensures that, while Alice has attributes of an unlikable character, we’re always sympathetic to what she’s going through. Piven and screenwriter Eliot Laurence choose not to take a judgemental or mocking approach to the character, while still acknowledging that her illness doesn’t excuse her more inconsiderate actions.
The film also shows the various ways in which Alice is exploited by the show’s producers—they view her as a circus act, a spectacle to entice viewers. They shift uncomfortably in their seats right up until Alice brings out her checkbook, where they suddenly see the potential in utilizing her trauma for entertainment purposes.
None of this would work without the right actress, and Kristen Wiig couldn’t be better suited to the role. She nails every detail of the character, riding the line between sadness and humor with what looks like ease, while still making Alice grounded.
By the end, Alice has been knocked down and must take back control of her own narrative. She takes strides towards bettering herself and mending broken relationships, reclaiming her story and realizing how her platform can be used for good.