ByBenjamin Marlatt, writer at

Upon winning a lottery that’s worth $86 million, Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) – a woman diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder – decides to quite taking her prescribed meds and buy her own talk show titled Welcome to Me. Over time, her show, which is two hours of her going on and on about everything from bizarre diets to past grudges, gains popularity from viewers either seeing it as inspired art or the biggest train wreck in the history of television. But it comes at a price as it distances herself from her friends and family and wreaks havoc on her psychological state.

Welcome to Me might seem like the craziest idea anyone’s ever created. Examples of the on-air activities include baking a sweet potato/meatloaf cake and then eating it, reenacting tragic events, such as a particularly traumatic missing makeup bag, the occasional meltdown and always opening the show by riding out in a swan boat to greet the live studio audience.

But in today’s era of television, when you think of Honey Boo Boo, what gets aired on truTV and the horse shit that gets puked out on MTV, Klieg’s show actually doesn’t seem that far removed from reality.

It’s tricky for any film to deal with a lead character suffering from a form of mental illness. It’s even trickier to place them inside a black comedy ’cause then you run the risk of off-putting your viewers. At times, the tone can get a tad wobbly, but director Shira Piven (brother of actor Jeremy Piven) deserves credit for not turning this into a tonal catastrophe. This kind of subject matter would be hard for even an experienced director to handle right; this is only Piven’s second feature-length film.

Sure, in certain spots, the laughter can get slightly uncomfortable, and like the audience and production crew, we don’t know what to think or feel as we also await what the unpredictable Alice might do next. That’s black comedies for ya, though, and Piven and writer Eliot Laurence manage to tread a fine line between complex character study and exploitation, dark humor and bad taste.

That said, no matter how good the writing and direction may be, this film lives and dies by Kristen Wiig’s performance as Alice Klieg, a woman whose social filter is as disciplined as Harry Goldfarb’s heroin addiction. Lesser talents could’ve either turned Alice into something too precious and maudlin like Sean Penn’s I Am Sam, or on the flip side, portrayed her condescendingly. Wiig, however, delivers a magnificent performance that manages to be funny, sympathetic, disturbing and heartbreaking without hitting a single false note. No mistake or confusion is made about her condition; it’s clear from the get-go she’s a disturbed woman, and neither Wiig or Piven make any attempt to hide that fact. But Wiig brings something endearing to the character as well without being cutesy about it.

I do have to commend Wiig. She could’ve easily made a comfortable living playing dopey, quirky characters you’d probably see her play during her SNL days (not that she’s bad at those), but she’s been challenging herself with the roles she’s taken on lately, such as what we saw from her last year in The Skeleton Twins. She not only tops that great performance, she delivers the best performance I’ve seen from actress so far this year.

Backing up Wiig is standout supporting cast that includes Wes Bentley, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins and Jennifer Jason Leigh. I’d be remiss to not mention James Marsden as well, simply ’cause he’s been popping up in so many God awful movies (so far he has two films that are pretty much shoo-ins for top 10 worst of this year) that you start wondering if someone’s got blackmail dick photos of him. It’s nice to see him not only show up in a good movie, but deliver a solid performance in it as well.

Selectivity, Cyclops. Seriously, it’s not a crime.

Trying to balance a serious mental illness inside a dark comedy is no easy feat, and Welcome to Me can get a little uneven at times because of that uneasy mix, but director Shira Piven turns in a fine effort that’s confident enough to keep things from getting too carried away. It’s Kristen Wiig, though, that commands everyone’s attention here, giving an impressively complex performance that holds the entire film together.

I give Welcome to Me an A- (★★★½).

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