Welcome to the Dollhouse

"Essential"

Welcome to the Dollhouse Review


Once again I have to agree with the mass of critics proclaiming a film as spectacular. First was Fargo, the best movie of the year. Now there's Welcome to the Dollhouse, a close second.

The winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year, Welcome to the Dollhouse has earned every award it has and every award it will get. Writer/director/producer Todd Solondz's intensely personal tragicomedy about an 11 year-old girl (Heather Matarazzo) facing vicious ridicule in junior high is an often somber (and more often hilarious) look at pre-teen "society."

Her name is Dawn Wiener, a.k.a. "Wienerdog," and she has three strikes against her from the start. Not particularly attractive, not overly bright, no personality to speak of -- the perfect tragic hero. But as an audience, we are instantly attracted to Dawn because she reminds us of all the awkwardness that we had during that time in our lives (although mine was more in 9th-10th grade). If you were Homecoming Queen, you might as well stop reading here.

Dawn's life is like Solondz describes about himself, "just counting off days and checking them off... interested in survival." Her family loves the darling youngest daughter Missy (Daria Kalinina). She is bullied by everyone at school, especially Brandon (Brendan Sexton Jr.), with whom she develops an intricate love-hate relationship. She has in her backyard a dingy clubhouse for the "Special People Club," which has two members, and which her parents want to tear down in order to have a party.

Basically, life sucks. But things start to look up when brother Mark (Matthew Faber) and his horrid band get the coolest guy in high school, Steve (Eric Mabius), to join in return for tutoring. Dawn finds herself instantly falling for Steve, and he, surprisingly, doesn't push her away. I could expound on the movie's rich plot like a "normal" film critic, but I won't. Instead, I'll let you savor the rich and juicy story that develops over the course of the sparse 87-minute running time. I will say that it never lets up.

Story is only one facet of what makes this film great. The acting is universally top-notch, especially considering these are all newcomers, and Matarazzo deserves special recognition -- even the villains overcome stereotyping. Randy Drummand's photography is innovative and always interesting. The use of music, particularly Dawn's angry theme, is excellent, and Solondz's little touches (like Dawn picking on Missy exactly as the kids at school pick on her, continuing the cycle) make every scene fresh and enthralling.

Although there is a minor structural problem near the end, that really doesn't detract from the overall success of the film. And by the way, cartoonist Lynda Barry should take a look at how her very similar (but not nearly as good) comic strip would look as a movie.

The social statement of Welcome to the Dollhouse almost guarantees that it will never be seen by the pretty boys and girls that really need to. That's too bad. My highest recommendation.

In that outfit? Matarazzo's kinda cute, if you ask me.



Welcome to the Dollhouse

Facts and Figures

Run time: 88 mins

In Theaters: Friday 24th May 1996

Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Fresh: 43 Rotten: 5

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Dawn Wiener, as Lolita, Christina Brucato as Cookie, as Cynthia, Siri Howard as Chrissy, as Brandon McCarthy, as Missy Wiener, as Mark Wiener, as Barry, Josiah Trager as Kenny, Bill Buell as Mr. Wiener, as Steve Rodgers, Stacey Moseley as Mary Ellen Moriarty, as Mr. Edwards

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

Contactmusic 2017 Exclusive

New Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

The Founder Movie Review

The Founder Movie Review

This is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who created the concept of McDonald's....

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

John Wick: Chapter 2 Movie Review

Keanu Reeves picks up his supremely efficient hitman immediately where the 2015 original left him:...

Fences Movie Review

Fences Movie Review

After winning Tony Awards on Broadway, Denzel Washington and Viola Davis reteam for a film...

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

The Lego Batman Movie Movie Review

A spin-off from 2014's awesome The Lego Movie, this raucously paced action-comedy is proof that...

The Space Between Us Movie Review

The Space Between Us Movie Review

While the premise of this movie makes it look like a sci-fi adventure, the truth...

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

Toni Erdmann Movie Review

On paper, the idea of a two-hour 40-minute German comedy may not seem very promising,...

Advertisement
Gold Movie Review

Gold Movie Review

Based on a true story, this lively and sometimes outrageous adventure is packed with twists...

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

T2 Trainspotting Movie Review

It's been 20 years since we last saw four freewheeling young junkies from Edinburgh spiral...

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Hacksaw Ridge Movie Review

Based on an astounding true story, this battlefield drama mixes warm emotion with intense action...

Sing Movie Review

Sing Movie Review

The quality of the animation in this musical comedy may not be up to Pixar...

Jackie Movie Review

Jackie Movie Review

Rather than make a standard biopic about the most famous First Lady in American history,...

Split Movie Review

Split Movie Review

After a few badly received sci-fi blockbusters, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his earthier style...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.