I’ve been wanting to post a movie review (which I haven’t done in a while), and also something about borderline personality disorder. How serendipitous that the “chick flick” my daughter and I decided to see this afternoon is a movie about a woman who has borderline personality disorder! I had no idea! It’s a good movie (and it’s directed by Will Farrell, who I love).
Here is my review of it.
Alice Klieg (Kristen Wiig) is a 40ish divorced woman who lives off the disability benefits she gets for her severe case of borderline personality disorder, which keeps her nearly unable to function normally due to severe depressions, self-destructive behavior, and general inability to regulate her emotions. Alice is quirky–obsessed with Oprah, hasn’t turned off her television in 11 years, and she’s addicted to buying lottery tickets. Her psychiatrist, Dr. Moffatt (Tim Robbins), is nearly at his wit’s end with Alice’s erratic mood swings, uncooperative behavior, and refusal to take her medications (prescribed to help regulate her moods). She has stopped taking her Abilify, and right after that the impossible happens–she wins 86 million dollars in the California State Lottery.
That’s when things get really crazy. A series of events leads up to Alice demanding her own show in the same vein as her idol Oprah. She acts crazy enough the television producers don’t take her seriously, until she writes them a check for 15 million dollars. The show, “Welcome to Me,” is on, and of course it’s all about Alice.
On her show, she demands a swan float to transport her onstage at the beginning of each episode, diva treatment, and she throws tantrums when things don’t go her way. She drives everyone around her crazy. But people are watching because they never know what poor crazy Alice will do next, and the show’s bringing the studio money so they can’t cancel it.
Alice decides she wants to re-enact scenes from her own life, using sets that are exact replicas of the places where they occurred. Actors are hired to play the roles, but Alice is never satisfied. She screams, yells, verbally attacks everyone (and then wonders why they pull away), and constantly cries on set. No one knows what to do with this apparently insane woman who can’t seem to control her impulses and emotions.
On the live show, Alice dresses in ridiculous, over the top attire, insists on singing the theme song herself (she can’t carry a note), bakes a meat cake with sweet potato frosting and spends most of the show sitting there eating it, neuters dogs onset (she used to work as a vet nurse), and throws a lot of temper tantrums. She’s also sexually promiscuous.
Things keep getting worse, and she alienates her long-time friend Gina (Linda Cardellini) by depicting her as fat in one of the sketches. Other people from Alice’s past who were insulted by the re-enactments (where even their real names were used) decide to sue the television studio.
Alice’s unpredictable, out of control and untrustworthy behaviors also anger Dr. Moffatt, who fires her as his patient and tells her point blank, “I think you’re dangerous.” In typical Borderline fashion, Alice cries and pleads with him, “don’t leave me!”
It takes a near-disaster for Alice to realize her out of control behaviors are eclipsing any ability she has to care about others and be a true friend to others. She’ll have a lot of amend-making to do if her broken relationships are ever to be repaired. Will it be possible for her to fix what she has destroyed or to ever really care about others? I won’t answer that here: you’ll have to see the movie for yourself.
I noticed some interesting parallels between BPD and NPD in this movie. Alice is quite narcissistic, grandiose, completely self-centered, and totally oblivious to the needs of others. But there’s something charming and quirky about her too. She’s never deliberately malicious–she’s impulsive and selfish and her obliviousness keeps getting her into all kinds of trouble. What keeps Alice from being a narcissist is that she actually has a conscience and the ability to feel badly when she realizes she has hurt so many people.
Kirsten Wiig is convincing as a severely Borderline patient, but while she can be funny, her insane behavior made me squirm in embarrassment. She’s uncomfortable and awkward to watch, but that can be the case in a BPD patient who’s completely out of control of their impulses and emotions.
I recommend this movie to anyone interested in Cluster B disorders, especially BPD, and how it can create disaster not only for the people their lives touch, but for themselves. Unlike NPD, there is nothing adaptive about borderline personality disorder to its sufferers.