When actors primarily known as comedians delve into darker material, the reaction usually goes one of two directions. Either they are praised for subverting their usual persona with a nuanced performance, or they’re derided for not knowing their acting limitations.
Kristen Wiig, who came to fame via Saturday Night Live and Bridesmaids, is the latest comedic actor to try her hand at drama, as she starred in 2014’s The Skeleton Twins and now Welcome to Me. In the latest film, she plays Alice Klieg, a woman with mental issues who has perhaps the best and worst thing happen to her: She wins the lottery.
With money as a door opener, she convinces a cash-strapped TV station to produce a talk show starring her titled Welcome to Me, in which she does nothing but talk about herself and the things that have gone wrong in her life.
The project as written must have been attractive, because Wiig and an enviable cast that includes Wes Bentley, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, James Marsden, Tim Robbins, Alan Tudyk and Jennifer Jason Leigh all signed on. But as directed by Shira Piven, the story never truly gets going.
That’s mostly because none of the characters, even Alice, is ever fleshed out. Instead Piven and writer Eliot Laurence mete out character details in a “by the way” fashion, making them seem less important than they actually are.
This matters because, as it stands, it’s difficult to care about Alice or her travails. She merely continues on a downward spiral with little-to-no context as to why her friends and family won’t help her more.
Although a few of the situations garner chuckles, there’s very little levity to be found in the film’s 100-minute running time. Some may attempt to label it as a dark comedy, but it never finds the sweet spot between comedy and drama to earn that title. It’s more of a wannabe drama with tonal issues that result in the occasional humorous situation.
For all the film’s faults, Wiig, who also produced it, is responsible for none of them. She does her best with the material she’s given and delivers a performance that could have been memorable in a different movie. Pretty much every other character is given short shrift, so it’s hard to judge the other actors one way or another.
By no means should Wiig take the failure of Welcome to Me as a signal that she should retreat to funnier fare. But if she’s not pickier when it comes to scripts or the filmmakers with whom she chooses to work, she’ll wind up in more forgettable films like this.