Welcome to the Dollhouse

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Welcome to the Dollhouse
Welcome to the Dollhouse film poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTodd Solondz
Produced byTodd Solondz
Written byTodd Solondz
Music byJill Wisoff
CinematographyRandy Drummond
Edited byAlan Oxman
Suburban Pictures
Distributed bySony Pictures Classics
Release date
  • September 10, 1995 (1995-09-10) (TIFF)
  • May 24, 1996 (1996-05-24) (United States)
Running time
87 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$5 million[1]

Welcome to the Dollhouse is a 1995 American coming-of-age black comedy film written and directed by Todd Solondz.[2] An independent film, it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and launched the careers of Solondz and Heather Matarazzo.[3] The story follows the unpopular middle schooler Dawn as she goes to extreme lengths trying to earn the respect of her vicious fellow students and her disinterested family. Dawn reappears in two of Solondz's other films, Palindromes and Wiener-Dog.


Eleven-and-a-half-year-old Dawn Wiener is a shy, unattractive, unpopular seventh-grader living in a middle-class suburban community in New Jersey. Her older brother Mark is a nerdy high school student who plays clarinet in a garage band and shuns girls in order to prepare for college. Her younger sister Missy is spoiled and manipulative; she pesters Dawn and dances around the house in a tutu. Her mother Marj dotes on Missy and sides with her in disputes with Dawn. Dawn's father Harv is a meek man who sides with Marj in arguments with Dawn. Dawn's only friend is an effeminate sixth-grade boy named Ralphy, with whom she shares a dilapidated clubhouse in her backyard.

At school, Dawn is ridiculed and her locker is covered in graffiti. At home, Marj punishes her for calling Missy a "lesbo" and refusing to apologize. Her teacher keeps her after school after one of her bullies, Brandon, tries to copy her answers on a test. Dawn gets in trouble again after accidentally hitting a teacher in the eye with a spitball when Brandon and his friends bully her during an assembly.

Mark's band is joined by Steve Rodgers, a charismatic and handsome aspiring teenage rock musician who agrees to play in the band in exchange for Mark's help in school. Dawn pursues him romantically when they spend time together, though one of Steve's former girlfriends tells Dawn she has no chance of being with him.

After Dawn calls Brandon a "retard" during a confrontation, he threatens her with rape. Brandon's first attempt to assault Dawn after school fails, but he orders her to meet him again over the phone. When she complies, he takes her to an abandoned field, where he starts an earnest conversation with her and kisses her. At dinner that night, when she refuses to tear down her clubhouse to make room for her parents' 20th anniversary party, Marj has Mark and Missy destroy it and gives them her share of a chocolate dessert.

Dawn and Brandon form an innocent romance, but she confesses to him her love for Steve, causing him to storm out of her clubhouse. Ralphy, who was spying on them, tries to comfort Dawn, but she angrily rejects him when he badmouths Brandon, leaving her with no friends.

At the anniversary party, Dawn intends to proposition Steve, but gets cold feet and is rebuffed. 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, Dawn smashes the tape and briefly brandishes her hammer over Missy as she sleeps.

Sometime later, Brandon is arrested and expelled from school for suspected drug dealing. Meanwhile, Harv's car breaks down and Marj has to pick him up. She instructs Dawn to tell Missy to get a ride home with her ballet teacher, but she chooses not to after arguing with Missy, who is kidnapped as a result.

Dawn visits Brandon's home and meets his mentally challenged brother and abrasive father. She tells Brandon that she wants to be his girlfriend, but he tells her that he is running away to avoid being sent to a reformatory. After they kiss, he tells her to come with him, but she accuses him of drug dealing. Offended, he tells her that one of his friends deals drugs, not him, insulting her in the process. Regardless, he asks her if she will come with him, but she refuses and he leaves.

When Marj is informed that Missy's tutu was found in Times Square, Dawn goes to New York City to find her. After a night of searching, Dawn phones home and Mark tells her that Missy was found alive and well by police after being abducted by a pedophilic neighbor. Dawn returns to town and her classmates ridicule her as she makes a thank-you speech. Mark tells Dawn that she cannot expect school life to get any better until she starts high school. On a field trip to Walt Disney World, Dawn sits among other girls from her choir and joins them in singing the school anthem.


  • 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
  • Dimitri DeFresco (Iervolino) as Ralphy
  • 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


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 was vocal about his love for the film, giving it four stars out of four and placing it at No. 5 on his "Best of 1996" list.[4]

The film currently holds a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 51 reviews with an average rating of 7.9/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "An outstanding sophomore feature, Welcome to the Dollhouse sees writer-director Todd Solondz mining suburban teen angst for black, biting comedy."[5] Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[6]


  1. ^ "Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)". The Numbers. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "Welcome to the Dollhouse: Overview". AllMovie. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 22, 1966). "FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW;Young, Geeky and Suburban". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  4. ^ Johnson, Eric C. (February 28, 2011). "Roger Ebert's Top Ten Lists 1967–2006: 1996". Behold, the Mutants Shall Wither... Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  5. ^ "Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
  6. ^ "Welcome to the Dollhouse Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 18, 2018.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
The Brothers McMullen
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by