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Welcome to the Dollhouse

Comedy movie directed by Todd Solondz

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Fear and Loathing in Junior High School.

  • Sep 25, 2011
**** out of ****

Todd Solondz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" recalls the sad, desolate, lonely days of adolescence; particularly within the Middle School days of our lives, also known as Junior High. I know that those days, as well as the High School days, seemed painful and long. They must have been the same for Solondz, as he seems to have made the film out of personal disgust for the lowest members of youthful humanity; he appears to be gnashing his teeth, although through both humor and drama. You won't like the film unless you can relate to this feeling, and I feel that many cinephiles will. Cinema isn't well-appreciated at a young age, and only certain individuals take it up as an interest early in their lives. These people are insightful, intelligent; non-conformists to society. Neither is Solondz. He makes different, challenging, and sometimes brilliant features; each one inspired, each one deep in one way or another. I can't say that all of his films are straight-up masterpieces, but with this film, his debut picture, he's certainly made a name for himself. He tackles subjects worth tackling, but seldom tackled nonetheless. He creates characters almost unrealistically realistic. His movie is in itself a great euphemism for a sort of living hell.

I have been there, and I remember every last bit of the experience. I can't say that the good outweighed the bad by any stretch of the imagination, when it comes to this, but when there was good to be found in my Junior High career, it was a nice feeling or relief. And then the bad came in through the cracks and proceeded to eat me from the inside out yet again; but I enjoyed the moments where I didn't feel this way. I like this film because the situations, such as one where the female protagonist of the story stands in the lunch room, tray in hand, looks for a place to sit down and devour her meal, are relatable and masterfully staged. Solondz isn't a man of style; clearly, he's a man of wit and substance. But that's exactly what I love about the guy.

Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is a Junior High student; Jewish, virtually friendless, and frequently bullied not only for her name (the kids call her "wiener dog") but also for her shy, quiet, nervous personality. She can't help it. But her peers don't care. They see her as vulnerable, which she most certainly is, and they will take advantage of her. One of her most infamous bullies is Brandon McCarthy (Brendan Sexton Jr.); a boy who sends spitballs towards our heroine, sexually harasses her in detention, and at one point; he even threatens after-school-rape. On second attempt, Dawn shows up for the occasion, which ultimately shows how desperate she is to make contact; a connection, perhaps. She is unassuming, and it's funny; but also painful.

I believe a lot of the film's depth comes from the constant juggling of Dawn's life at home and her career as a student. School isn't particularly fun - whatsoever- for the poor girl, and neither is home. Her parents are unsupportive, her brother strikes her as uninteresting aside from a friend named Steve, whom Dawn falls smitten for. Then there's her sister, who at first seems like nothing more than a crucial source of annoyance for the central character, and in an instant, she becomes something much more important within the story.

What had my eyes glued to the screen was Solondz and his sympathy. He understands people. Even the strangest among them. The kids in "Welcome to the Dollhouse" - and even a few of the adults - feel rejected, lonely, forever sad; as if they are going nowhere. Maybe that's how it is. Dawn doesn't seem to have much of a future ahead of her socially, but academically, she might make some progress. Solondz - also the writer of this film - writes her character as an intellectual teen who tries to fit in, but can't seem to make the cut. Some people just don't know how to be cool, to the point where they just stop trying and act like they're content being labeled as "weird". Nobody wants negativity thrown their way. Dawn doesn't invite the harsh criticism that eventually meets her and sticks with her; she lives with life, and that's what she gets. I haven't exactly gotten any more or any less when it comes to such a thing. Therefore, there was an emotional investment to be made here. I think that Todd Solondz's "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is captivating, well-performed, ridiculously well-written and often times quite funny. But then comes the insightful bits; and such inclusions make the film much more than I expected. It's a nice little 86-minute surprise. I hope that my readers will discover it and come up with their own theories on its philosophy, regarding life. Keep on livin'.

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More Welcome to the Dollhouse reviews
review by . July 19, 2010
My days at school were not as cruel as Dawns. “Welcome to the Doll House” is a dark comedy by the genius Todd Solondz.  I personally find him to be one of the great directors of our time. The reason why I love this film so much is because of the dark comedy. “Welcome to the Doll House” is a film that brutally pins the main character against everyone. Poor Dawn has really become the punch line of this whole film. There are moments where you just feel bad for her, but …
review by . June 18, 2009
The Exorcist?  Alien?  Signs?  Those movies can wet themselves at this film which is a true real life horror movie with a very identifiable monster we all have faced.  That monster is middle school.      The film centers on an unpopular middle child named Dawn Wiener who gets the not so affectionate nickname "Wiener Dog" by her peers.  Her older brother is in highschool and has his own garage band and her little sister is a cutesy putesy ballerina …
review by . September 01, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Heather Matarazzo, script, directing     Cons: none obvious     The Bottom Line: “Come into my dollhouse  Fill my empty heart  Without you I'm a catatonic fool  Sitting in the dark” ~ Jill Wisoff     I can’t imagine anything as miserable as 7th grade. Especially if you are less than attractive, your family is filled with unfeeling parents, a nerdy brother, and ‘the perfect daughter’. …
review by . January 09, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Todd Solondz does it again and for a reason. We're introduce to Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), an awkward seventh grader who is put down by her peers because of her physical appearance. The taunting Dawn endures is extreme and does not come across as even slightly reminiscent of anything that happened in my high school, but this fact does not take away from the empathy we feel for her as she struggles through her daily life. As if school weren't bad enough, Dawn's home life doesn't leave much …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


Todd Solondz's WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE follows the painful daily trials of Dawn "Wienerdog" Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), an awkward, nerdy 12-year-old. The middle child between her geeky older brother, Mark (Matthew Faber), and her sickeningly sweet little sister, Missy (Daria Kalinina), Dawn has a rough time with her family and everything else, including school and boys. She's obsessed with Mark's hunky bandmate, Steve (Eric Mabius), but the only guy who pays her any attention is the local thug, Brandon (Brendan Sexton III), who constantly threatens her with rape. <br> <br> With startling accuracy and humor, Solondz captures the hell known as junior high in his blow-by-blow account of Dawn's difficult life. One of the darkest and funniest tales of adolescence ever filmed, DOLLHOUSE serves as a grateful reminder that puberty strikes only once.
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Director: Todd Solondz
Genre: Comedy
Release Date: May 24, 1996
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Todd Solondz
DVD Release Date: March 08, 1999
Runtime: 1hr 27min
Studio: Sony Pictures
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