Friday August 14, 2015
Movie Review: Welcome to Me (2015)
IMDb.com has the plot wrong:
When Alice Klieg wins the Mega-Millions lottery, she immediately quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show.
Actually, Alice (Kristen Wiig) begins the movie off her meds. We see her waking up in the middle of the day in her sad one-room apartment, where she’s sleeping in a sleeping bag on the bed, the shelves are overflowing with ceramic swans and old VCR recordings of “Oprah,” and infomercials drone away on the TV, which is perpetually on. Outside, holding a parasol in the sun, she attempts to right one of those crazy-arm-wiggling balloon men outside a car dealership, before picking up her groceries and lottery ticket outside a Korean grocery. Then it’s back for more “Oprah.” Then she wins the California lottery of $86 million.
There are a few laugh-out loud moments but “Welcome to Me” isn’t a funny movie. It’s spooky. You cringe, watching it. It's scrotum-shrinking.
Alice is both dreamy and purposeful, both determined and “not there,” and Wiig plays her without the wink that might allow us to laugh. And that’s before she becomes rich. After she becomes rich, of course, she gets what she wants, which is, sadly, her own two-hour-long vanity TV show on a dying cable channel. There’s a good scene in a conference room where the embattled producers attempt to suss out what the show will be. Current events? No. Interviews with guests? No. So what does Alice want to talk about?
“Me,” she says blankly. Hence the title.
For the show, Alice arrives in a swan boat waving her hand in feeble imitation of the Queen; she makes recipes for high-protein foods then spends five minutes eating silently on camera; then she recreates traumatic (or “traumatic”) moments from her life, with beautiful actresses playing herself and ugly actresses playing her nemeses. She shouts out the lines from the sidelines. She shouts out her betrayal. She breaks down on camera. She uses her nemeses’ real names.
What did it remind me of? A bit like SNL’s Gilda Radner playing the little girl pretending to host a TV show in her bedroom: “The Judy Miller Show.” Except Judy had energy and personality, and was a child. Alice is just nuts. The show, and the movie, is like spelunking into the dark heart of fucked-up women everywhere. It’s not a date movie.
Where does it go? What's it all about? You wonder, for example, if Alice will become perversely popular in the way of Rupert Pupkin, and she does, but on a minor scale. You wonder how she can use real names without lawsuits and suddenly there are 31 eleventh-hour lawsuits. She insults her friends and isolates herself. She walks naked through the Vegas casino where she lives. That’s when she’s hospitalized again and receives medical attention. But by then she’s gone through most of her money.
Lesson to all of this? Point? Is it about our solipsistic selfie culture? Kinda sorta. Except everything about Alice is old school: VCRs and answering machines. It ends with her back in her one-room apartment, but with a dog now, and able to sleep on the bed rather than in the sleeping bag on the bed. She’s able to have a man over without having sex with him. She’s able to turn off the TV.
In a way the movie is like Alice: Instead of saying something big about our culture it says something small about her. Its lessons are obvious lessons. Be nice to those who are nice to you. Stay on your meds. Turn off the TV.
But there’s some value in the spelunking.