Film Review of the Week: Welcome to Me 

As the cliche goes, everyone loves to watch a car crash. That's the philosophy at work in Welcome to Me, the new dark comedy starring Kristen Wiig as a woman with borderline personality disorder. The film, which opens Friday at the Capitol Theatre, thrives on your discomfort, as Alice Klieg (Wiig) gets herself into one awkward situation after winning the lottery and proceeding to spend a good portion of the money on her own reality TV program. It's a minor movie that won't make it past the art house circuit, but it provides a great vehicle for Wiig, who continues to evolve as an actress, to strut her stuff as she makes the self-centered, unstable woman come off as someone worthy of our sympathy despite the way in which she alienates everyone in her life.

The movie commences with the scene in which Alice, a loner who's obsessed with her TV (it's always on and she likes to watch old episodes of Oprah on videocassette), realizes that she's won the lottery. She's so socially awkward, she even has trouble phoning in to claim her money. But upon receiving her winnings, she immediately moves into a casino and starts blowing the cash.

When she makes an appearance on a cable access station show that simply needs warm bodies for its studio audience, she tells the producers that she's willing to put millions of dollars into her own TV program. Desperate for cash, they take her up on the offer, even though her idea for a TV show dubbed Welcome to Me is really out there and no one but the station owner thinks it's a good idea to work with her.

Once she gets on air, Alice, who stopped taking her medication after winning the lottery, defies conventions as she reenacts scenes with childhood friends and provides tips on eating healthy. In one scene, she makes a meatloaf cake and then sits and eats it for what seems like an eternity. The show, which airs live, is so bad that one producer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) quits and another (Joan Cusack) is regularly shocked by the things Alice does and says.

Alice alienates her therapist (Tim Robbins) and her best friend (Linda Cardellini). She starts sleeping with Gabe (Wes Bentley), a TV host at the station, turning the guy against his producer brother Rich (James Marsden) in the process. And in one segment of the show, she begins castrating animals; her intentions are actually good, but the scenes are rather gruesome. The lawsuits against her start piling up.

In its final moments, the film finally takes a step back from the madness. Alice starts running out of money, and she also comes to realize that she needs to be back on her medication. The ending, therefore, suggests Alice experiences an epiphany as she begins to understand that her obsession with television isn't healthy.

The film's strength lies in the fact that Alice's behavior, while manic at times, isn't far removed from our own obsessions with celebrity culture and reality TV. The film's theme is self-reflexive. It suggests we have a sick fascination with watching car crashes while presenting an epic car crash. Pretty nifty.


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