As a stickler for theater etiquette, I was perturbed by several people who arrived after this feature had begun. That was until I realized that these lucky moviegoers had the good fortune to miss a few minutes of possibly the worst film released this year. Shira Piven’s Welcome to Me is an aggressively bad movie. It would be easy to blame this film’s existence on Hollywood nepotism, as Piven is the older sister of actor Jeremy Piven and the spouse of director Adam McKay (Anchorman, Step Brothers), but to do so would give too little credit to Kristen Wiig’s inflated sense of self-importance. With a narcissistic title mirroring its protagonist’s world view, Welcome to Me follows Wiig’s Alice Klieg as she struggles with borderline personality disorder. Films dealing with sensitive topics such as mental illness typically either attempt to create pathos with the afflicted character or to play their disability for laughs, and while Welcome to Me strives for both, it accomplishes neither. Thanks to the sort of deus ex machina story logic that has long been the hallmark of bad screenwriting, Alice stops taking her meds and then promptly wins millions in the lottery. Alice’s newfound fortune allows her to indulge an unexplained Oprah obsession by purchasing her own talk show from a pair of infomercial producing brothers (James Marsden, Wes Bentley) and their long-suffering production crew. Though this premise sounded marginally promising, the film seems to conflate awkward movements and silly costuming with actual jokes, and as such fails in its meager comedic aspirations. Even fans of black comedy are apt to boggle at its story, which is just as confused as its protagonist.
Wiig would have done well to let her superior supporting cast carry the weight of the film, but their characters are written almost as if they know that this is a terrible film. Tim Robbins delivers an excellent performance as Alice’s beleaguered psychiatrist, with Joan Cusack and Jennifer Jason Leigh likewise performing admirably as the aforementioned infomercial crew, but every ancillary character in the film becomes frustrated with Alice’s grandiosity at some point, most of them abandoning her when the detriment of her madness outweighs the benefit of her money. Linda Cardellini makes a valiant attempt to give the story an emotional core as Alice’s best friend, but the script gives her too little to do and not enough screen time to accomplish anything meaningful. The entire cast rejects Alice to varying extents, some returning out of convenience, others for financial gain and some refusing to return at all. These last would be the prudent characters, and possibly the only ones with explicable motives. If indeed there is a moral to be found in all of this, it can only be that wealth buys the ability to abuse others with impunity about 80% of the time.
Ultimately, the film’s greatest failing lies in its uneven tone. At the screening I attended, some 30 minutes passed before an audible chuckle emerged from the audience. To say that few followed would be to overstate the obvious at this point. Whatever the depths of incompetence plumbed by the film’s first two acts, they pale in comparison to the third, which begins with Alice graphically neutering dogs on live TV, an incomprehensible development that the script attempts to address with a bit of hastily shoehorned backstory. Alice follows this debacle with a psychotic break, resulting in a naked stroll through the casino in which she’s taken up residence. Full frontal nudity might seem like a plus in a film this tedious, but the scene suffers from the same tonal indecisiveness as those that preceded it and therefore fails to play as anything other than exploitation. Every time I thought this movie couldn’t get more nonsensical and pointless, it surpassed my expectations, possibly the most dubious of distinctions. If nothing else, the film stuck with me, as I had a Wiig-induced migraine for the remainder of the afternoon. My sincere hope is that by giving this film the lowest rating available (and I regret that I have to give it even a partial star) some filmgoer might be spared the indignity that I endured. Those seeking a more sympathetic portrayal of mental illness would be better served by the new Mad Max, which will undoubtedly hang around in theaters longer. With a running time just shy of two hours, Welcome to Me overstays its welcome just as egregiously as its protagonist. Rated R for sexual content, some graphic nudity, language and brief drug use.