Here’s What the Critics Are Saying About ‘Welcome to Me’ Starring Kristen Wiig

welcome_to_me_wiigKristen Wiig’s latest film Welcome to Me hits theaters today, and so far the reviews are pretty mixed. Currently at 71% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was written by first-time screenwriter Eliot Laurence and directed by Shira Piven and centers on Wiig as a woman with borderline personality disorder who launches her own television show after winning an $86 million lottery jackpot. Despite some of the negative criticism about the film — most reviews make some mention of the ending as copping or chickening out, call its treatment of mental illness potentially offensive, and compare the film to a drawn-out SNL sketch — Wiig’s performance has earned her plenty of glowing praise. Here’s a roundup of what some of the critics are saying:

The New York Times: “Just describing the film is equivalent to listing the many ways it could have gone wrong. To build a comedy around the predicament of a mentally ill main character is to risk either gross insensitivity or a maudlin romanticism that is just as offensive. To take up the subject of subprime television is to court banality and bad faith. But Welcome to Me, while not perfect, is the opposite of a disaster. By turns touching, amusing and genuinely disturbing, it defies expectations and easy categorization, forgoing obvious laughs and cheap emotional payoffs in favor of something much odder and more interesting.”

Indiewire: “The film is a mocking commentary on the ludicrous nature of reality TV and pretentious daytime talk shows, and tucked away under the surface is a severe portrayal of a socially debilitating disorder. For the most part, Me is an uproarious comedy, which may not sit too well with advocates for the mentally unwell, but then, we would have to ask if these people have ever heard of Kristen Wiig.”

Los Angeles Times: “Though some of the jabs Me takes at reality TV are clever, the film, like Alice, tends to fracture at key moments. What makes it worth watching is Wiig. The comic actress is fearless in giving herself over to the most awkward and unbelievable situations. Her commitment makes even Alice’s absolute narcissism somehow nice.”

New York Daily News: “Wiig again displays her gift for seeming both in the moment and apart from it. As in The Skeleton Twins last year, and much of her wilder comedy work, she connects to the sad side of satire. Within Alice’s deadpan expressions are eyes that stay unfocused until she sees the cameras have switched on.”

Vulture: “Alice always seems to have prepared statements to read — often uncomfortably confessional ones — but her ordinary conversation also sounds scripted as well, speaking as she usually does in an awkward monotone. I was regularly reminded of any number of Wiig characters from her SNL days, only this time she’s not quite playing it for laughs. Or rather, she is, but with a growing awareness that somewhere behind the absurdity lies deep, gnawing hurt. It’s as if the actress is turning the tables not just on her audience but also on herself.”

Deadline: “For mainstream fans of Wiig, Ghostbusters 3 and Zoolander 2 probably can’t come soon enough, but you have to give her points for seeking out different material and roles that are, at the very least, unexpected. In this case it’s a mixed blessing — Welcome to Me is almost like the kind of sketch you would see in the last half-hour of SNL — but it’s a must for true followers of Wiig’s wildly eccentric film career.”

New York Observer: “From this strained idea, a 15-minute SNL skit stretches across 105 minutes of blunted jokes, poorly directed situations and underwritten characters in search of a full-length movie. Instead, it turns into just what we need—another full-length reality TV series.”

The A.V. Club: “There’s no precedent, however, for [Wiig’s] latest picture, Welcome to Me, which combines those two modes in a way that can only be described as utterly bizarre. At its core, it’s a serious drama in which Wiig plays someone every bit as demented as Gilly or Penelope (the closest equivalent, for those who recall the Digital Shorts, is actually Virgania Horsen), who’s behaving that way in a real-world context because she’s mentally ill. The bold, arresting movie doesn’t really work, but is nonetheless almost impossible to stop watching.”

JoBlo: “Welcome to Me treads on fairly uncomfortable territory by asking us to consider the fact Alice may very well be sick in the head. The film wisely doesn’t delve too deep into this, and that ambiguity results in us feeling even more unsure about our lead character. It’s pretty skillfully handled, and Wiig, using her best straight-faced expression of peevishness throughout, is more than well-equipped to play both Alice’s unlikable and pathetic sides.”

Variety: “Even as its setting beckons in the direction of classic media cautionary tales like Network and Broadcast News (with perhaps a smattering of the Anchorman movies, whose key talents Will Ferrell and Adam McKay are among the producers here), Welcome to Me never devolves into a finger-wagging denunciation of television, any more than it becomes a hand-wringing portrait of the ravages of mental illness.”

New York Post: “But for all of Wiig’s considerable efforts, in the hands of director Shira Piven (Jeremy’s acting-coach sister, whose husband Adam McKay produced the movie with comedy partner Will Ferrell) and screenwriter Eliot Laurence (Logo TV’s My Big Gay Sketch Show’) it all plays more like a long, dark TV comedy sketch than an actual movie.”

Salon: “On several occasions, Wiig’s uncannily precise portrayal of Alice’s bottomless narcissism made me laugh until I cried … But the crying was real too, and the barely contained anguish beneath Alice’s veneer of semi-functionality and self-appointed sexiness is ultimately not funny. This is a performance of immense naturalness and depth, one that never allows us to forget our essential kinship with Alice – and it’s much funnier for that essential truth.”

The Wrap: “Piven (sister of Jeremy, wife of Adam McKay) has certainly put together a cast (that also includes Thomas Mann, Loretta Devine and Rose Abdoo) that can make even the very smallest roles pop. But this is Wiig’s show all the way, and it’s only the delicacy and grace that she gives the character that keeps Welcome to Me from being even more of a leering freakshow than it already is.”

The Dissolve: “Welcome to Me never develops much momentum, doesn’t always know what to do with supporting players like Leigh, and builds toward a finale that plays as a bit too neat. Yet even this doesn’t betray the character’s cracked integrity.”

HitFix: “[Welcome to Me] does not let Alice off the hook for being mentally ill, and it doesn’t treat that as something to be mocked. Even so, there are going to be people who are rubbed completely wrong by this film simply because of how committed Wiig is to playing a character who is not easy to like. So be it. You can’t make a film like Welcome to Me and worry about making it play to everyone. As the film escalates, it becomes more and more uncomfortable, and when Wiig really goes dark as Alice, it becomes clear that she is not making fun of this woman or her pain or her sorrows. Wiig plays this both emotionally and physically naked, and I think it’s amazing work.”

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