Welcome to Me is not a documentary about Borderline Personality Disorder or mental illness in general. Yes, it does feature a woman, Kristen Wiig as Alice Kleig, with diagnosed BPD who elects of stop her medication in and around the time she wins 80ish million dollars in the lottery. With her windfall she buys time on an infomercial channel and creates a TV show, in the image of Oprah, that is entirely about her, conforming to the untethered whims of her personality. But Welcome to Me is absolutely not a documentary.
As a sort of comedy, Welcome to Me is a rarity. Most movies that either deal with or feature mental illness skew towards the dramatic. Culturally, disorders are still much misunderstood and sometimes derided, and so the handling of mental illness is often reverent and dramatized and to find humour in a reality that can so often be destructive for the sufferer and those close to them runs the risk of being tacky and disrespectful. No doubt there will be some concern over whether or not Welcome to Me is mocking afflictions, especially considering Wiig's particular, slanted sensibility.
But these are Welcome to Me's concerns as well. Yes, it's funny and odd that Alice rides out on a swan boat and eats a meat cake and has actors re-enact traumatic scenes from her life – it's right up the alley of found footage/cable access humour – but the rightness and wrongness of being audience to this process that resembles a type of catharsis is never settled on. The TV crew have doubts about enabling someone clearly having a tough time and the slowly-building audience find the show funny until it's not funny. Whatever doubts the viewer might have about whether or not Alice's unstymied BPD is being played for laughs get echoed throughout Welcome to Me.
But are we allowed to find Alice Kleig funny? A question persists: where does a disorder begin and the person end? To reduce someone to only as a sufferer is to treat them as the sum of their imbalances. The film allows Alice to be an unlikable, difficult person, a challenge to her friends and family, while at the same time revealing an essential oddness and warmth about her. In this way, Welcome to Me, as a comedy, manages to be a more effective look at a person living with mental illness. Dramatic portrayals tend to dwell on struggle, in the process blotting out a great deal of the person struggling, becoming more about the disorder than the person. The title itself nods to the fact that this is a movie about Alice Kleig, who has BPD, and not one about BPD, which has Alice Kleig.