Welcome to the Dollhouse
|Welcome to the Dollhouse|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Todd Solondz|
|Produced by||Todd Solondz|
|Written by||Todd Solondz|
Brendon Sexton, Jr.
|Music by||Jill Wisoff|
|Editing by||Alan Oxman|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Running time||87 minutes|
Dawn Wiener is a shy, unattractive, unpopular 7th grader in a middle-class suburban community in New Jersey. Her older brother Mark is a nerdy, snooty high school student who plays clarinet in a garage band and shuns girls in order to prepare for college. Dawn's younger sister Missy is a spoiled, manipulative little girl who pesters Dawn and dances happily in a tutu. Their mother is a shrewish, overbearing woman who dotes on Missy and sides with her in disputes with Dawn. Their father is a meek, selfish man who sides with Dawn's mother. Dawn's only friend is an effeminate fifth-grade boy named Ralphy, with whom she shares a dilapidated clubhouse in her backyard.
Dawn's life in junior high is miserable. Her classmates ridicule her and cover her locker with graffiti. After her teacher unfairly keeps her after school, she is threatened with rape by a bully named Brandon McCarthy, who has almost as much trouble socializing as she does. Her attempts to take out her frustrations only get her into trouble: at home her mother punishes her for calling Missy a lesbian and refusing to be nice to her; at school, she accidentally hits a teacher in the eye with a spitball. Brandon's first attempt to rape Dawn fails, but he orders her to meet him again. After she presents herself to him and he takes her to an abandoned field, he starts an earnest conversation and only kisses her, even though she is obviously willing. Mark's band is joined by Steve Rodgers, a charismatic and handsome aspiring rock musician in exchange for Mark's help in computer science class. Dawn falls for him and decides to pursue him romantically after he spends some time with her, even though one of his former girlfriends told her that she has no chance.
Dawn and Brandon form an innocent romance. Brandon is expelled from school for suspected drug dealing and, after kissing Dawn, runs away to avoid being sent to military school. After angrily rejecting Ralphy, Dawn is left with no friends. When she refuses to tear down her clubhouse to make room for her parents' wedding anniversary party, her mother has Mark and Missy destroy it and gives them her share of a cake. At the party, Dawn intends to proposition Steve, but gets cold feet and is contemptuously rebutted. Steve plays with Missy, who pushes Dawn into a kiddie pool. That evening, the family watches a videotape of the party, laughing when Dawn falls into the water. Later that night, Dawn smashes the tape to pieces and briefly brandishes her hammer over Missy as she sleeps.
Dawn's father's car breaks down and her mother has to pick him up. Dawn is to tell Missy to find a ride home from ballet class while their mother is away. However, Missy argues with Dawn, who retaliates by not telling her, with the result being that Missy is kidnapped. When Missy's tutu is found in Times Square, Dawn goes to New York City hoping to find her. After a full day and night of searching for Missy, Dawn phones home to check up on what is going on and Mark tells her that Missy has been found by the police after she was abducted by a pedophile neighbor. Dawn returns home dejected and sees that her mother was too preoccupied with Missy's traumatic kidnapping ordeal to even notice Dawn's absence. After this, Dawn's classmates make fun of her as she gives a thank you speech in the assembly hall. Dawn is relieved that summer is now here and that her painful ordeal at school is over at least for the next three months.
- Heather Matarazzo as Dawn Wiener
- Matthew Faber as Mark Wiener
- Daria Kalinina as Missy Wiener
- Angela Pietropinto as Mrs. Wiener
- Bill Buell as Mr Wiener
- Brendan Sexton III as Brandon McCarthy
- Eric Mabius as Steve
- Victoria Davis as Lolita
- Christina Brucato as Cookie
- Christina Vidal as Cynthia
- Amouris Rainey as Darla
- Siri Howard as Chrissy
- Telly Pontidis as Jed
- Herbie Duarte as Lance
- Jared Solano as Neko
- Scott Coogan as Troy
- Josiah Trager as Kenny
- Ken Leung as Barry
- Dimitri Iervolino as Ralphy
- Rica Martens as Mrs. Grissom
Critical acclaim 
The film was a surprise success, considering it was a relatively low budget, independently produced film. It garnered critical praise for its nail-biting view of a pre-teen outcast, and won the Grand Jury Prize for best dramatic feature at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. Critic Roger Ebert has been vocal about his love for the film, giving it four stars out of four and placing it at number five on his "Best of 1996" list.
The film currently holds an 90% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, which states, "Twelve-year-old Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is perhaps the most put-upon adolescent in film history in Todd Solondz's bitterly hilarious black comedy Welcome to the Dollhouse."  At Amazon.ca, critic Jim Emerson says "What is junior high school but a strange, disorienting pastiche of black comedy, tragedy, soap opera, and (most of all) horror movie? Well, that pretty much describes Todd Solondz's astonishingly honest and clear-sighted film, Welcome to the Dollhouse."  At IMDB, critic Mike Joyce says "Welcome to the Dollhouse is a black comedy, and one often feels guilty for laughing at Dawn's predicaments. All in all, it is a sad (yet somehow funny), look at poor Dawn's life. One can't help but think that she could get somewhere if she would just get a new wardrobe, new glasses, and a new hairdo. However, if she did that, it would effectively be another unrealistic, Hollywood-style film with a happy ending. I recommend this film to anyone who enjoys black comedies, or who wants to be taken back to the terrors of [junior] high school." 
- Welcome to the Dollhouse at the Internet Movie Database
- Welcome to the Dollhouse at AllRovi
- Welcome to the Dollhouse at Box Office Mojo
- Welcome to the Dollhouse at Rotten Tomatoes
- Welcome to the Dollhouse at Metacritic
The Brothers McMullen
|Sundance Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic