Welcome To Me: Humor takes break from Hollywood, hits independent film circuit

Comedy, as a genre, is a tough nut to crack.

More than any other type of film, the art of making people laugh is inherently more difficult than, say, making people cry. It’s why good actors do drama and great actors have the timing for comedy.

Films like the Reese Witherspoon and Sofia Vergara-driven “Hot Pursuit” don’t help the matter any, especially when that derivative mess of a feature is one of only a handful of movies led by strong, independent women this year.

Since there’s still another week of waiting for Anna Kendrick to save audiences with “Pitch Perfect 2,” avid moviegoers are forced to hit the independent film circuit for good laughs, but even that’s a mixed bag.

Enter Kristen Wiig.

While many viewers will remember her best for her roles on “Saturday Night Live” and breaking into Hollywood with the sensational “Bridesmaids,” it’s in the smaller, independent films that Wiig does her finest work.

Her latest feature, “Welcome to Me,” is no exception.

The film, available on demand and expanding theatrically across the country, follows Wiig’s Alice Krieg, a woman with borderline personality disorder who purchases her own daytime talk show after winning $86 million in the lottery.

It’s a film that, in the hands of a major studio, could have become another “Hot Pursuit,” oversaturated with unnecessary pop culture references and self-deprecating humor.

There’s little of that “studio humor” in “Welcome to Me,” a refreshingly wonderful film that evokes so many great cult classic comedies.
Wiig shows off her emotional range — proving that talented performers with acting chops can be just as adept in drama as they are in comedy.

Quirky and slightly off-putting at first, there’s just enough charm slipped into Wiig’s Alice that allows viewers to settle comfortably into the film and, ultimately, root for the best things for Alice.

The movie also boasts a strong supporting cast, including veteran actors, including Tim Robbins, James Marsden, Joan Cusack, Alan Tudyk and Jennifer Jason Leigh as well as Linda Cardellini and Wes Bentley.

In its purest sense, “Welcome to Me” is the modern, feminine companion film to the cult classic comedy “UHF” starring Weird Al Yankovic.

Much of the film occurs within the confines of Alice’s show, aptly titled “Welcome to Me,” and it helps viewers come to understand the uniqueness of Alice’s character in a new and original way through a terrific script by Eliot Laurence.

Alice’s borderline personality disorder defines who she is as a character, but Laurence never lets the script devolve into caricature.

It would have been easy to have Wiig push her off the emotional edge and make something more akin to “The Truman Show” or “Nightcrawler,” where Jake Gyllenhaal’s obsessions consume him.

Laurence makes sure audience members are laughing with Alice as she works through life off her medication, not at her.

To be sure, “Welcome to Me” isn’t the feel-good movie of the summer by any means. The film is a hard R with explicit content and rough around its comedic edges. It definitely takes a refined, mature audience in order for “Welcome to Me” to be understood and appreciated in the right contexts.

But, on Wiig’s performance alone, the film is definitely one of the best dramedies to come along in several years and a worthy choice for age-appropriate audiences.

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