Welcome to the Dollhouse
1996
The horrors of junior high are vividly re-created in this darkly comic tale of the painfully awkward Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), a middle child who must cope with a dreary home life -- and with classmates who mercilessly taunt her. Writer-director Todd Solondz's unflinching look at the nightmare of early adolescence took away prizes at both the Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards.

Scott Hardie: “It ruled.”

After enjoying Happiness and Storytelling so much, I knew I couldn't last long without seeing Todd Solondz's most famous film. It is certainly his most painful, as young Dawn Weiner (three-dimensional though she is) stands as a universal symbol for all of us who were once geeky adolescents, while the main characters in his other films stand only for themselves. What Dawn experiences here is a knuckle-chenching nightmare of childhood torments, and if you experienced painful ones yourself, this film may go beyond catharsis and actually reopen old wounds. Strong as the film is, I found it the least satisfying of Solondz's three films (I have not seen his disowned "Fear, Anxiety & Depression") because it doesn't build to any result: the scenes accumulate instead of adding up. I also didn't laugh much, but that's my problem. If you're in the mood for an 87-minute Pathetic Geek Story, this is the rental for you.

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