Kristen Wiig is known for her stand-out comedic roles in movies like Bridesmaids and Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues and outlandish sketch comedy on Saturday Night Live. And with that she has established herself as a comedy heavy-hitter. But pushing the envelope comedically isn’t all that Kristen Wiig is about. In the newly-released Welcome to Me, Wiig bares all to the audience, both physically and emotionally.
Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, an odd-ball character who has a penchant for The Oprah Winfrey Show and the lottery; she is also afflicted with borderline personality disorder (BPD). When Klieg wins the $86 million Mega Millions jackpot, she decides to take herself off of her medications and purchase her own TV talk show.
Welcome to Me is labeled a dark comedy, but critics are finding it to be much more than that. Wiig’s powerfully dramatic and comedic performance takes the audience on the roller coaster ride that is the life of Alice Klieg.
“On several occasions, Wiig’s uncannily precise portrayal of Alice’s bottomless narcissism made me laugh until I cried,” said Andrew O’Hehir in Salon “But the crying was real too, and the barely contained anguish beneath Alice’s veneer of semi-functionality and self-appointed sexiness is ultimately not funny. This is a performance of immense naturalness and depth, one that never allows us to forget our essential kinship with Alice – and it’s much funnier for that essential truth.”
One scene in particular exposes the audience to the uncomfortable dark side of Alice’s disorder. She aimlessly makes her way through a populated casino, confused, lost, and completely naked.
“Being naked in a film or on stage isn’t always supposed to be sexy,” Kristen Wiig said in an interview in Violet Grey. In Welcome to Me, it demonstrates a vulnerability in the character, where the viewer is reminded that Alice is a person with real issues, not just a quirky character.
BPD is a complicated and difficult mental illness and according to Mayo Clinic, it can result in erratic and sometimes dangerous behavior if left untreated. BPD affects the individual’s self-perception, and can make establishing and maintaining healthy relationships nearly impossible. Welcome to Me shows both the seriousness of BPD, but also the humor that life sometimes lends when awkward circumstances arise.
“It was extremely important to me and to Eliot Laurence [writer] to be respectful of this woman with borderline personality disorder,” said director Shira Piven in an interview with SFGate. “He is definitely irreverent, and we would definitely laugh about this woman, Alice, and the crazy things that she does. But we were never laughing at her illness. To me, we are also laughing with her and laughing at the absurdity of life as opposed to ever laughing at her.”
Welcome to Me isn’t Kristen Wiig’s first visit to the dark side of the comedy pool. She has dipped her toes in its murky waters before when she played Cheryl Melhoff in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013), and again as Maggie Dean in last year’s The Skeleton Twins.
Kristen Wiig is accompanied by an all-star cast in Welcome to Me including actors Wes Bentley, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, James Marsden, and Tim Robbins.
Welcome to Me is directed by Piven, and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. It released May 1 to a limited audience, and opens nationwide May 8.
[Photo courtesy of Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]