welcome to me
Probably the funniest film you will see this year and also a complex, sad and sometimes dark exploration of narcissism, mental illness, surveillance, celebrity and the culture of self-help.
Alice Klieg is getting by - living on disability in Palm Desert, California, visiting her therapist and rewatching many many episodes of Oprah. She loves the comforting platitudes of television, specifically self-actualization programs that tell you if you believe hard enough you can do anything. And when Alice wins the lottery, this seems to be true. Her millions are spent on filming a television show where she is the host and the content is whatever is on her mind. Watching her money drain away is uncomfortable but Alice's weird obsessions and thoughts make for good TV. Eventually viewers start to respond.
Alice makes a meatloaf cake with sweet potato frosting (she's trying out a protein diet). She stages re-enactments involving the many people who have wronged her and usually ends up crashing the scene and crying. She shares a lot of inappropriate stories. She finds herself endlessly fascinating and assumes that others will as well. This trait is becoming increasingly prevalent so this is quite a relevant theme. As much as Alice is manic and off the rails, she represents a lot of real social problems.
Welcome to Me is a great jumping off point for a conversation about mental illness. Some might be offended by the portrayal but I appreciated that the character is not a textbook case and is much more than her diagnoses. Her behaviour springs from many sources and the suggestion that everything will improve if she goes back on medication is probably misplaced, as Alice has been just scraping by for decades.
Shira Piven's film features fantastic performances, especially by Kristen Wiig and Linda Cardellini as Alice's sweet best friend who supports Alice and appreciates her quirks. It also features an impressive cast including Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack and Jennifer Jason Leigh. All obviously wanted to participate in this energetic project, but their talents are not put to particularly good use.
I found the film charming and hilarious. If you don't catch this at the festival it will be out next year.
Oct 3 1:00 pm at the Vancouver Playhouse
Oct 10 4:15 pm at the Vancouver Playhouse