Remember when your parents told you that school years were the best days of your life and you
knew they were lying? Welcome to hell.
Todd Solondz's faultless Sundance winner Welcome to the Dollhouse follows the
travails of eleven-year-old Dawn Wiener, the pariah of junior high, who is forced to
undergo a series of humiliations at the hands of her classmates, teachers and her family.
The indignities of being forced to take a shit in public, having "Wiener Dog
sucks bigtime graffiti'd on her locker, and having an obscenely perfect younger sister
called Missy, are all delineated with excruciating clarity in Heather Matarazzo's brilliant
performance. She is a wonderfully myopic, badly-dressed, round-shouldered, poor, persecuted
But the greatest joys in Welcome to the Dollhouse are found in the small delineations of its script. Dawn's older, geeky brother, a coimputer nerd and clarinettist in stunningly inept school rock band The Quadratics, provides moments of mirth - summing up their cacophony: "Well, that didn't sound much like Satisfaction" - and despair - his consoling advice to Dawn: "As you get older they still call you names, but not so much to your face." It's The Simpsons as neo-realist tragedy - little coincidence that Dawn's parents are called Harv and Marj.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is barely disguised torture but, deeply sympathetic to Dawn and laced with bleak and bitter humour, it also becomes a malevolent treat. See it and delight in an adult haven, having left the purgatory of junior high behind.
Reviewed by Monika Maurer
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