Kristen Wiig Embraces Black Comedy ‘Welcome to Me’
In the burnt-toast black Sundance comedy, Welcome to Me, SNL alumna and Bridesmaids star Kristen Wiig goes dark and bipolar without losing her shield of likeability. It’s really a superpower to be marveled at, like the ability to carry on a long conversation without looking at one’s mobile device. Oh, flying and cloaks of invisibility and electric-dagger eyes – they are so desperately attention-seeking.
Wiig’s uber-likeability may just be her problem here. Like the title, she’s too welcoming, not off-putting enough. Wiig plays Alice, a mentally challenged Palm Desert single. She goes off her meds, wins the lottery and funnels her new-found wealth into an Oprah-style over-sharing public access show called Welcome to Me. Wiig may just be a little too cuddly crazy – even when she goes too far, neutering rescue dogs on live TV. Suture this, Oprah!
Like a Facebook friend that has made an honest effort to bare her soul (and breasts and pubic hair) in the name of art, we hate to criticize but there’s a reason that the buzz around this indie underachiever has been subdued. We like Wiig, we really like her, but the sketchy writing (by feature virgin Eliot Laurence of Logo TV’s The Big Gay Sketch Show) does not serve the star or her director, Shira Piven. Piven leaps from scene to scene without registering the deeper beats or pulling bigger laughs from the set pieces Laurence tosses her way.
Wiig’s intuition is right – to step into a woman character that carries the narrative into new and strange places, a Lucille Ball of lithium refusers. She has the chops, and an engaging ensemble that includes Joan Cusack, James Marsden, Wes Bentley, Tim Robbins, Linda Cardellini and Jennifer Jason Leigh. They surround her in a halo of unrealized potential. But her team lets her down – possibly gently, but down. If you haven’t seen her opposite the revelatory Bill Hader in The Skeleton Twins, Craig Johnson’s dramedy about suicide and redemption in suburban Nyack, now’s the time to rewind to that low-budget heartbreaker. With better material, Wiig’s ability to reveal the raw emotion and spiky pain beneath her shield of likeability is a thing of beauty that lifts her from the limitations of sketch comedy and broad humor.
April 27, 2014