When an Oprah fanatic with borderline personality disorder wins the lottery, she pays a struggling TV studio big bucks to create a daytime chat show solely about her own life.
Shelves of VHS-taped talk shows, stacks of elastic-banded sweepstake tickets and swan ornaments on every surface: who would live in a house like this? The answer is Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig), a purple bum bag-wearing Californian with a mental illness and one friend (Linda Cardellini), whose days revolve around watching infomercials and eating the same nondescript yellow pudding pots. But when Alice wins an $86 million jackpot, she stops taking her medication, moves into a casino and pays a TV studio for full creative control over a show all about her: Welcome To Me. Rightly, no-one is convinced it will work, but the studio’s enterprising owner, Rich Ruskin (James Marsden), doesn’t care; she’s just paid him a fifth of her winnings.
A roster of more fleshed-out characters would have added the depth this sorely needs.
So Alice writes and sings the theme tune, enters on a tacky swan boat, insults most of the people she knows live on air and starts an intimate relationship with Ruskin’s brother and shy show producer, Gabe (Wes Bentley). With reenactments of her most painful childhood moments and cooking demos including meatloaf cake with potato frosting (part of her high-protein lifestyle), it’s a delicious train wreck. And tonally, Wiig is A1. Her Alice is thoughtful, unpredictable and funny — and never at the character’s expense, although it’s hard to forget her Saturday Night Live roots with show segments like “Smelling things before they happen”.
But this is too literally the Alice show. While it’s fascinating to see such a layered and uninhibited portrayal of borderline personality disorder, the supporting cast are entirely wasted. Marsden, Joan Cusack, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Alan Tudyk – and Tim Robbins as her persevering shrink – sponge only a few lines each, and it’s left to Wiig to hold court while they jostle for screen-time around her egomaniacal Alice. A roster of more fleshed-out characters would have added the depth this sorely needs.
It’s a mesmerising turn from Wiig, but the script leaves her working overtime to carry a story that doesn’t delve much deeper than its initial premise.