When Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) was 11, she was diagnosed manic-depressive, put on medication, and grew up as most teenagers do. Yet, the events that shaped Alice’s upbringing—although not abnormal—stuck deeper in her mind than most. Where most people learn to move on from certain moments, Alice remains in those moments, holding on to them while withdrawing from the world. She is waiting for her moment to share these memories, but not until she has a big enough platform to do so.
Now at the age of 42, Alice has won the California lottery, hitting the jackpot for $86 million. The world is now her oyster. Alice happily goes on television to receive her winnings, but when her rehearsed statement touches on sexual tendencies, the feed is pulled, and Alice’s big moment is cut short.
Although brief, Alice enjoys the spotlight and sees an opportunity to tell her story, all her stories. As Alice tells her mother, “Everyone wants to be on TV.”
Rich (James Marsden) and Gabe (Wes Bentley), two brothers who run a cable access network out of Palm Springs, California, also wanted to be in television, but the revenue streams dried up long ago. Now they’ll take whatever comes their way. Alice and her blank check come knocking, telling them that she wants her own TV talk show, like Oprah, where she will write, direct, star, sing, cook, and reenact tragic moments of her life for all to see. Alice may be off her meds, but she’s a multimillionaire, after all, and certainly not the first rich eccentric that wants to get into television. How could they say no?
Alice’s show, Welcome to Me—which she designs and crafts every aspect of the production—provides her exactly what she needs: a medium where she is allowed to indulge in every aspect of herself, including a producer who she can knock out quickies with in the back and audience members that call her an “artist” and sleep with her in the limo. For Alice, a woman who has spent the last 11 years of her life sitting in front of a TV that she never turns off, it’s a dream come true.
Alice’s view of television has been a long time coming, and her spiritual older brother, Rupert Pupkin from 1982’s The King of Comedy, saw television the same way: not preferable to reality, but as reality. Yet, when The King of Comedy was released in 1982, the 24-hour network cycle had just been born, and reality television was still a premonition of things to come. In Welcome to Me, that time has come. Anyone with enough money and enough narcissism can be a reality star or a game show contestant. And if they are a train wreck at the same time, all the better. At one point, Alice’s mother (Lisa Shields) tells her, “Not everyone is an emotional exhibitionist.” Alice, and a multitude of reality TV stars, talk show hosts, and game contestants would beg to differ.
Welcome to Me (2014)
Directed by Shira Piven
Written by Eliot Laurence
Produced by Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, Aaron L. Gilbert, Marina Grasic, Adam McKay, Kristen Wiig
Starring: Kristen Wiig, Wes Bentley, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Alan Tudyk, Lisa Shields
Alchemy, Rated R, Running time 87 minutes, Premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival Sept. 5, 2014.
The above review first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 22, No. 40, “The new boss.”
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