Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Welcome To Me

Kristen Wiig is fast-becoming one of my favourite actresses – I often find myself struggling to connect with actresses rather than actors (I also find this with comedians), but I’ve enjoyed every single film I’ve seen Wiig in. I was looking forward to Welcome To Me partly because of this, but also because the film just seemed to be made for her.

  
Welcome To Me, directed by Shira Piven and produced by Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, among others, is an interesting take on a character who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder – a rough and perhaps under-mentioned mental illness that manifests itself in so many ways that most people don’t really know much about it. Alice Klieg has suffered from BDP since she was 19 – she reads everything she wants to say from a prepared statement, sleeps on her bed in a sleeping bag, and has kept her TV on for 11 years. Despite some her stranger habits (including memorising various ‘Oprah’ episodes) her life is going okay, until she wins $86 million on the lottery. Seeing a chance for a new life, she stops taking her medication, moves permanently into a casino hotel and starts presenting her own talk show, where she talks just about herself.


This film is pretty weird – I could tell from the trailer that it was going to be, and yet I was still surprised at just how weird it got (and I have a high threshold for weird). The whole concept is bizarre from the start, and I imagine that this is the sort of film that won’t be for everyone. That said, for those of you that like surreal and deadpan, it will most likely be a winner.

Many films that depict mental illness tend to get it wrong – either the sufferer is seen as a psychopath (which is rarely the case), or the illness gets trivialised beneath the Hollywood glitz. In this way I found Welcome To Me quite refreshing, as it does neither. Of course, every sufferer of BPD has different experiences and so no one will ever be able to create a 100% accurate character, but they really gave it a damn good try here. We see a whole range of different symptoms here – recklessness, impulse, ‘splitting’, indecision, narcissism, sudden bursts of emotion, and also the strangely endearing qualities one with BPD might portray – all of which could be considered accurate to the many different variations on the mental illness. As expected, Kristen Wiig takes the role on perfectly, and at times it’s hard to believe that it’s all acting. This film is ctually a really good example of just how versatile Wiig is as an actress, with some scenes being incredibly brave of her to comply with.

What I really liked was how the style of filming complemented the BPD depiction so well. The mood of the film changes frequently, with many scenes hilarious but also tragic. It had a similar feel to it as films like Napoleon Dynamite do – following a character who doesn’t really make sense to the viewer, yet they can’t help but connect with them all the same. And, like Napoleon Dynamite, there wasn’t really a plot past the initial premise, but it didn’t matter as being able to view the warped life of Alice was an experience in itself.


The cast supporting Wiig were all great as well, and Alice’s absurd personality also highlighted their own characters’ issues. Sometimes relationships where explored full-on, whereas at other times hints were given but no real confirmation of the relationship was provided (such as the relationship between Alice and her mother). This worked and it didn’t, but I still came away feeling glad that I’d watched the film to the end (even if I’m not entirely sure what I just watched). Despite its unclear plot and confusing scenes where you won’t know whether to laugh or cry, Welcome To Me is a fully-absorbing film that depicts Borderline Personality Disorder in a non-stereotypical way that you probably haven’t seen before. 

I give Welcome to Me a 4/5.

★★★★☆

Hannah Read


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