music friday: the sex pistols
revisiting the awful truth (leo mccarey, 1937)

film fatales #80: welcome to me (shira piven, 2014)

Another movie for "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." Week 28 is called "Leigh, Leigh, Leigh, or Leigh Week".

A play off of last year's "Lee, Lee, Lee, or Li" week, I initially struggled to find a fourth Leigh, but then I remembered Vivien Leigh whom I somehow forgot. Obviously these selected people have little in common with each other, but its just something I threw in for fun.

This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen film directed by Mike Leigh or starring Janet Leigh, Jennifer Jason Leigh, or Vivien Leigh.

This was harder than I expected. I originally chose something called Jake Squared, which featured Jennifer Jason Leigh, but after watching the trailer, I decided I really didn't want to see that one. So I went with Welcome to Me, which I had been thinking about watching for some time. It's a bit of a cheat, though ... Jennifer Jason Leigh is in this one, too, but her part is pretty small. (For one of my favorite Leigh films, check out The Anniversary Party.)

Welcome to Me is interesting, but not completely successful. Director Shira Piven, screenwriter Eliot Laurence, and star Kristen Wiig as Alice deserve credit for presenting a bipolar character without resorting to some of the stereotypes we're used to. Wiig is often just a little off (and sometimes, a lot off) ... she doesn't play the part as if she's begging for an Oscar. And the film doesn't make the mistake of making Alice overly lovable, or suggest that bipolar people are somehow "better" than the rest of us, even as they suffer. (I'm cheating a bit using the word "us" ... I, too, am bipolar, although I'm "II" and Alice is clearly Type I.) Alice is troubled, but she is also so self-absorbed that she is practically clueless about the possible problems of others.

But the film doesn't really go anywhere. Alice makes some marginal changes, but not enough to wake the movie up. It is funny at times (it's Kristen Wiig, after all), although you get the feeling they were trying for farce and not getting there. It is extremely sad at times ... in this way, Welcome to Me is rather bipolar itself. But despite the best efforts of all concerned, there are times when we are laughing at Alice as much as we are suffering for her.

All of this makes Welcome to Me an uncomfortable film to watch, and really, that's a good thing ... this isn't a run-of-the-mill movie about a crazy person. But the discomfort comes in part from the feeling that the material is moving beyond the grasp of the intentions of Pivan and crew.

Kristen Wiig is very good, and plenty of good names turn up, especially Linda Cardellini as Alice's best friend. Welcome to Me is OK, but that's as far as I'd go.

(Here is a letterboxd list of Film Fatales movies.)

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