Welcome to the Dollhouse

1995

Welcome to the Dollhouse

Critics Consensus

An outstanding sophomore feature, Welcome to the Dollhouse sees writer-director Todd Solondz mining suburban teen angst for black, biting comedy.

90%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 51

86%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 33,470
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Movie Info

An unpopular seventh-grade girl finds her life a living hell, thanks to the ridicule of her peers and the indifference of her family. This critically acclaimed, entirely unsentimental dark comedy depicts her struggles to survive this incredibly awkward age.

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Cast

Heather Matarazzo
as Dawn Wiener
Matthew Faber
as Mark Wiener
Daria Kalinina
as Missy Wiener
Angela Pietropinto
as Mrs. Wiener
Brendan Sexton III
as Brandon McCarthy
Bill Buell
as Mr. Wiener
Eric Mabius
as Steve Rodgers
Rica Martens
as Mrs. Grissom
Siri Howard
as Chrissy
Ken Leung
as Barry
Stacey Moseley
as Mary Ellen Moriarty
Will Lyman
as Mr. Edwards
Elizabeth Martin
as Mrs. Iannone
Zsanne Pitta
as Ginger Friedman
Richard Gould
as Mr. Kasdan
Beverly Hecht
as Steve's Girlfriend
Teddy Coluca
as Police Sergeant
Tommy Fager
as Tommy McCarthy
James M. O'Donoghue
as Mr. McCarthy
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Critic Reviews for Welcome to the Dollhouse

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Welcome to the Dollhouse

  • Oct 20, 2012
    WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE (1995) Independent WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Todd Solondz FEATURING: Heather Matarazzo, Christina Brucato, Victoria Davis, Matthew Faber, Daria Kalinina, Brendan Sexton GENRE: Black Comedy-Drama Poor 7th grader Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is awkward, smarter, and more perceptive than her utterly ordinary classmates. They hate her for that. Worse, Dawn is non-conforming so she is not popular. Because she is also not pretty, the Bastards (how those of us who think independently and don't conform refer to the rest of you) seize on Dawn's appearance as a way to get back her, taunting her, humiliating her continuously with cruelty, bullying her, caling her "lesbo," and "Wienerdog." And we're talking virtually the entire student body of her undistinguished public Jr. High School. Some of her bullies are the typical psychopaths whose cruelty crosses over the line into homo-erotic, sado-masochistic type behavior. Dawn's father (Bill Buell) is meek and emotionally absent. Her older brother (Matthew Faber) who has his own struggles to deal with, keeps below the bullies' radar by conforming to an identity that is something they can comprehend; a computer nerd. Dawn's mom (Daria Kalinina) is a superficial, soul-less, cold-hearted shrew who makes no attempt to understand her daughter and who, along with the rest of Dawn's family, marginalizes her because Dawn is homely and thinks unconventionally. Dawn's little sister Missy (Daria Kalinina) is of course, the cutest little girl in the world, pretty and perfect -and conniving and cruel. The favorite of the family, she cunningly manipulates Dawn, provokes her, baits her, and sets her up to trigger the worst reactions from their parents, all the while receiving favored, differential treatment from the parents herself. We want to see one of Monty Pythons black, triangular, 10 thousand ton weights fall on her from out of the sky. Dawn is misunderstood and treated inequitably by her teachers and principal, who, typically like most school officials, take pride in being oblivious to the real transgressions on their watch. They delight in turning the other way as Dawn is victimized and bullied, then savagely sanctioning her when out of desperation and helplessness, Dawn finally stands up for herself (which always backfires). Dawn is at wit's end. Struggling to find acceptance, dreaming of being popular, Dawn finds she has a crush on an older Brahmin, a long haired, masculine, "cool kid" high school boy (Eric Mabius) who her brother tutors. In the meantime, Dawn falls into an unlikely, dysfunctional romance with one of her school bullies (Brendan Sexton), with whom she shares an uneasy emotional alliance, based on both of them being different types of social outcasts. And now, on top of her struggles and misfortunes, Dawn's stupid mother wants to tear down Dawn's little clubhouse to make room for her twentieth anniversary party. The clubhouse is the only place she feels safe, where she and a younger bullied and unpopular boy from next door hide from the tribulations of the outside world to seek refuge and talk about life. Welcome To The Dollhouse is of course presented from Dawn's point of view, but even if you are the type of person who hates people like Dawn, you can't help but to identify with her character. We aren't expected to pity her, but we do root for her, even though we know that in real life, things likely won't improve much for Dawn. She has a long road ahead before she will be clear of the pettiness and cruelty of public school's distorted social environment One scene in the film effectively sums up the hidden reality of Dawn's identity. During her parents' anniversary party in her backyard, at which she feels unwelcome, the event teems with neighborhood conformists, families of her school-tormenters, and every shallow goober one can imagine. The camera pans though the crowd, surveying each of them. We all know these people. Those of us who in any way identify with Dawn's free spirit and perceptiveness despise them. Then the camera pulls back from the crowd in a wide shot to reveal the family house in the background and very slowly zooms into an upstairs window, where Dawn, alone and appalled, watches passively by herself, from inside. In this single shot, we can see clearly that Dawn is the real gem of all the people in attendance. She is a black sheep among the conformists, darlings and beauty queens. Yet sensitive, bright, and uniquely able to see the world for what it really is, Dawn is the only one there who is pretty on the inside. And nobody in her life can perceive it. Welcome To The Dollhouse, is hard-hitting but also funny in a dark way. It's a drama with elements of black comedy. So many comedies make me wince. There is an old saying about how tragedy is when I fall down a manhole, but comedy is when YOU fall down a manhole. I squirm when I watch most comedies because I can't get past the tragic aspect to enjoy what's funny. Welcome To The Dollhouse is different. It's thoughtful and well constructed in such a way that you are able to enjoy the humor in it even if you strongly identify with Dawn's character. Maybe it's because all of it is just so darn true! So many of the typically ironic inequities and absurdities of life as a misunderstood adolescent are cleverly woven into the plot, while the overall story keeps you genuinely anxious to see what will happen next and how it will turn out. You cheer when Dawn does little things to get back at the Bastards despite the fact that, the cosmic odds being stacked against her, they often blow up in her face. One of the more satisfying scenes occurs after Dawn's family watches a video of her parents' anniversary party. Of course Dawn's cute, perfect, conniving, mean spirited little sister is the central attraction. Everyone loves little Missy and coos over her adorable party shenanigans captured on the tape. Dawn's only appearance in the tape is when Missy pushes her into the pool. When they watch this part of the tape, Dawn's family laughs heartily. They rewind the scene and watch it again. They all agree to keep this video forever. Late that night, Dawn steals the tape, takes it out the curb with the household garbage, and smashes it with a hammer. If you've ever felt marginalized, misunderstood, picked on for being ugly, hated for not conforming, or despised for being smarter or having any fortune of birth that the Bastards are lacking, you will get a real charge out of Welcome To The Dollhouse's pensively funny, credible story. If you enjoy this genre, you will also like a more grown-up version of these same general themes in the film, Änglagård (House of Angels) (1992).
    Pamela D Super Reviewer
  • Aug 08, 2012
    Not the type of middle school most people imagined it to be. Todd Solondz takes us into his interpretation of school life and the result is a provocative piece of cinema that would make some of us cry if we had to experience it ourselves.
    paul o Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2012
    It's probably one of the most amazingly written film ever. It's darkly humoured and sarcastic. Heather Matarazzo delivered a stunning performance at such a young age, she played the character Dawn extraordinarily well. The film looks simply but a lot of the songs and images implied symbolism and metaphors. It's hard to decide whether you loved anyone of the characters in the film.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Nov 29, 2011
    Todd Solondz knows how to tell it like it is. "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is a stark look at middle school life centered on unpopular outcast Dawn "Wiener Dog" Wiener and her misfortunes, which range from chasing after a high school crush to getting her little sister kidnapped by a pederast. The acting from Heath Matazarro is exceptional; her character isn't likable as much as she is easy to relate to, and she gives possibly one of the best debut performances ever. Solondz has a way of showing how oblivious, manipulative and pathetic some people are and how quick they are able to turn on each other, and he does so by making each scenario darkly hilarious. "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is an uncomfortable viewing mostly because it brings back unfortunate memories, but it's a very funny, well-written and relatively honest motion picture.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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