Jill and I hashed out our new theme via Google Hangouts the other evening, whilst we were moaning about our busy weeks. “Films with Colours in the Title” was one of mine (it might come back one day, don’t worry), though I couldn’t think of much beyond Black Hawn Down to reinforce my case. (As it happens Blue Ruin, Green Room, Three Colours: Red (and Blue and White) spring annoyingly easily to mind when I have no pressure to come up with them).
Luckily, Jill touched upon “Films about how much adulting sucks” which then evolved into its working title “Films about Fuck Ups” which I’m sure we’ll all agree is much catchier and pleasurable to say.
So, to Films about Fuck Ups Month.
DISCLAIMER: The first pick of the month looks at mental health issues and, although, we’ve included it in our new category, we’re not implying this makes a person a ‘fuck up’. To be clear the term in this case is about anti-heroes and underdogs, and very much tongue-in-cheek. You get me? Just to be clear.
Welcome to Me (2014)
When Alice Klieg wins the Mega-Millions lottery, she immediately quits her psychiatric meds and buys her own talk show.
Alice Klieg worships Oprah and has one of the very best movie wardrobes I’ve ever seen. She also has her own issues which we’ll very much come back to. Life changes forever when Alice wins $60+ million on the lottery. She reacts perhaps as we all would by giving a public speech which is cut off when she goes into too much detail about her history in masturbation.
Alice it turns out has a personality disorder and is a fan of prepared statements, which should actually be a thing. I would be a lot more eloquent if I could pre-prepare everything I said. She has a tight circle, which include her best friend Gina (Cardellini), elderly parents and ex-husband Ted (Alan Tudyk), who clearly care for her.
She also has Doctor Moffet (Tim Robbins), though on beginning her new phase as ‘Million Dollar Alice’ she tries to quit his sessions. It doesn’t stick but might give you a loose idea of where Alice is heading. Alice moves from her apartment into a new complex within a casino and somewhere along the line is inspired to pay for her own show on local TV.
She meets struggling co-owners Gabe and Rich Ruskin (Bentley and Marsden) and their team, which includes Dawn (Cusack) and Deb (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who aren’t that into the whole concept (though because they think Alice is a nut job, not because they have any concern for a clearly vulnerable person) .
Alice’s plan is to present one hundred two hour episodes of ‘Welcome to Me’ a show about herself and her life. This comes at a great price for her financially, and emotionally when it really comes down to it. And with Alice throwing much needed money at the floundering local station, her new team have little choice but to get on board. What Alice wants, Alice gets becomes the rule of thumb – and it’s unclear how this vanity project could ever be a good idea.
Alice starts a sexual relationship with Gabe alongside the show and things get a little weird as he seems as fragile as she does. The show becomes something of a cult success, as Alice splices awkward cooking sessions (hamburger cake, anyone?), re-enactments of traumatic adolescent experiences (with actors playing ‘Alice’ and her peers) and as the show continues, the segments become more controversial (you’ll see).
Amid the cult success, our heroine stops taking her meds, upsets some people close to her by airing their laundry (and her own) live on air, ups the drama on set (live castrations, yo) and things quickly begin to unravel, for her and the station.
Things start to spiral further downwards when Alice has an accident on camera and then a significant argument with Gina, who calls her a bad friend.
I think the beauty of this movie is in its subtley and in the unfettered subject matter presented by Alice, as well as Wiig’s central performance. I don’t want to spoil it for you by laying it all out but as with all things, something’s got to give before Alice finds herself in real danger.
To the questions!
Will Million Dollar Alice get the help she really needs? Will she repair the damage done to her relationships?
Where can I get a giant swan boat and where does Alice shop? Some of these questions will be answered along the way.
It would be interesting to see this film with a different lead actress because I don’t think Alice could be delivered as well by anyone other than Wiig.
She isn’t a likeable character and her dead pan delivery of almost everything makes her unsympathetic mostly. However, I loved seeing a character like this on the screen. She’s so free in how she speaks, un-encumbered by political correctness or what is expected of her as a person, and it’s refreshing.
Even though she has a mental disorder she is held accountable for her actions and I think that’s good. Gina isn’t afraid to call her out for being self-absorbed so it feels real. A tale about a woman with a real illness learning how to cope with relationships and life in the real world, even if her real world is currently anything but ordinary.
It is uncomfortable in places to witness so many people taking advantage of Alice, financially and otherwise. Alice is a sexually forward woman who knows how to tune into that side of herself, and that is great though it’s kind of sad that nobody seems to care about her emotions. Gabe maybe, who admits to ‘loving too much’.
All in all I think this is interesting, maybe a little slow in places but the show segments make up for that. Alice’s flashbacks are hilarious and awkward. Joan Cusack is boss af, Jason Leigh is prickly and great – the cast is a great one actually, even James Marsden’s slippery Rich isn’t horrible.
Definitely worth a watch.
My Rating: 4/5. It’s an odd little movie but I like it.