Seventh-grade is no fun. Especially for Dawn Weiner when everyone at school calls you 'Dog-Face' or 'Wiener-Dog.' Not to mention if your older brother is 'King of the Nerds' and your younger sister is a cutesy ballerina who gets you in trouble but is your parents' favorite. And that's just the beginning--her life seems to be falling apart when she faces rejection from the older guy in her brother's band that she has a crush on, her parents want to tear down her 'Special People's Club' clubhouse, and her sister is abducted....Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
While in the gymnasium listening to a speech, there are three bullies sitting behind Dawn spitting spit balls at her. She is spit ball-free in one shot, but in the next shot, a close-up, she has several on her. See more »
All of junior high school sucks. High school's better; it's closer to college. They'll call you names, but not as much to your face.
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Do not go into Welcome to the Dollhouse expecting a charming coming-of-age story. Don't expect to have a lot of laughs either. I'd seen this film several times before this viewing, including its original theatrical run, and it was just as cringe-worthy as the first time, if not more so because you know what to expect and find that you are bracing yourself.
Solondz gives us the story of Dawn Weiner, a painfully awkward 13 year old girl who not only has to contend with being ostracized and friendless at school, but is essentially ignored and treated with disdain at home as well. Being the middle child is obviously not the easiest thing to deal with within the family dynamic, but when your older brother is a geeky over achiever and your little sister is a gorgeous ballet-dancing cherub who commands total devotion from her mother, life is generally difficult for Dawn.
Solondz throws in some intriguing plot points that punch up the story and encourage introspection, but while the story and presentation are excellent, the real breakout element of the film is the performance of Heather Matarazzo. It is amazing that she was the same age as her character during filming because the performance, while the right age, exhibits a talent beyond her years. You would be hard pressed to find someone who actually found the torment against her as humorous. Rather, Solondz is so relentless with the abuse that it's almost like picking at a scab. However, in the character of Dawn Weiner, we also see strength and conviction to go along with her vulnerability. It's as if she finally realized and perfected these defense mechanisms simply so she can `survive' junior high school.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is not a feel-good movie by any means. It is a stark and realistic look at adolescence in a way that we don't normally see it it is not a sunny and idyllic junior high/high school experience, and not every `nerd' is stereotypical, a fact soundly proven by the complexity of the heroine of this great movie.
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