Casting, script, acting and direction of this is all good. Interesting to watch, painful at times, and I felt in the meanness and offensiveness of the kids there was a lot of truth. Not however that enjoyable, not something I would love and rewatch. Worth watching if you know you like interesting indie films.
This is a difficult film to review without giving away much of the plot. Basically you'll either identify or relate to some extent with the main character [and love it] or won't [and will hate it]. From the start we see a nervous Dawn Weiner [11-year-old Heather Matarrazzo] sigh deeply as she slowly tries to find a seat in the school canteen. Instantly we are thrown head first into her world of ridicule and insult where she is daily either teased or ignored but always mentally terrorized. The "Weiner Dog" is taunted endlessly, her locker is marked with spiteful graffiti, her teacher is mean to her. Things are not much better at home where cute little sis Missy is so spoilt she always gets her way -usually at dawns expense, while brother mark is the stereotypical science nerd on whom the families future hopes seem to lay. This isn't to say that Dawn deserves all our sympathy, for she turns much of the hatred thrown at her straight back onto others around her. We watch various events unfold in Dawns bizarre world and witness her distorted relationships with others. Who cannot watch this without feeling some sympathy as Dawn tries to do the right thing, then gets knocked back for it? It's a bit of an emotional roller-coaster and much of the plot is hinted, rather than stated or depicted. Despite covering a wide range of taboo subjects from bullying through to under age sex and child kidnapping, there is no nudity as in other films of its type [eg Pretty baby -Brook Shields, etc] yet this rather bleak and depressing movie never fails to keep the attention with its constant friction. The ending is left reasonably open and hints at some light at the end of the dark tunnel of High School. However for those who want the directors take on this, there is mention at the start of Todd Solondz' Palindromes. [based around a cousin of Dawn'] which explains Dawns fate and gives some disturbing details on brother Mark. Dawn' father also gets a mention detailing his unsavoury actions in Solondz' Happiness. One final note, my single disc opens onto a black screen offering, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish and Finnish, making you think you've bought a dud. Making the selection takes you to the main menu offering the basic choice of Play, scene selection, subtitles and trailer. Go to subtitles and turn them off, [or you'll have them in the language you selected earlier] this then takes you back to main menu. Select play and the disc is all in English. Dark, disturbing and unsettling, this is a much under-rated film that is well worth a try if you like delving into the nasty side of human nature and interaction. Not everyone's cup of tea, but definitely thought provoking.
This poignant little film combines dark comedy, drama and satire to tell the story of 'Dawn Wiener', an seventh grade schoolgirl who is the embodiment of 'uncool'. Disliked by her classmates for being different and sidelined by her family, the film shows in painful detail the eroding self esteem of a sweet, kind, and thoughtful girl who wants little more in life than to be liked. Writer-director Todd Solondz really manages to show what a segregated society school life is, and how reputation and looks are seen as far more important than what is inside. If you want to see a film where the unpopular nerdy girl has a makeover, gets the guy, and becomes the prom queen, then this isn't a film for you. But if you want a film with real characters and a touching story then I can't recommend this enough.
Bold, unabashedly honest, psychologically riveting, and painfully mesmerizing are just a few of the words and expressions that come to mind when I think about this uniquely extraordinary film. First shown at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, Welcome to the Dollhouse walked away with the grand jury prize, and it is easy to see why. Writer/director/producer Todd Solondz brought a unique vision of the sharpest kind to this film, cutting right through the fluff of the typical "geek makes good" nonsense and forcing his artistic scalpel forcefully down into the nethermost regions of the adolescent heart. The story is so unsettling and painfully uncomfortable that some parents hesitated or refused to let their children participate in the filming. It's just an amazing, unforgettable movie. Eleven-year-old Heather Matarrazzo gives one of the most remarkable performances I've ever seen from an actress of such tender age. Her eyes and bodily expressions encapsulate and transmit the hurt and misery writhing inside her every moment, leaving the viewer helpless to do anything but watch with increasingly unrestrained unease. Born with the unfortunate name of Dawn Weiner, the poor girl is ridiculed, ignored, teased, insulted, and basically mentally terrorized every day at school. Chants of "Weiner Dog" follow her throughout the hallways, her locker is marked with awful graffiti, and even her teachers and administrators are less than kind to her. Then, after school, she has to come home to parents who dote on her smart older brother and "little miss perfect" younger sister. Dawn has only one friend, a younger neighbor boy who seems to be following in her ignominiously alienated footsteps. Dawn does not escape all of this mentally unscathed, taking her own anger out on her sister in particular and doing several things that good girls should not do. In the most surreal of story elements, Dawn longs to be rescued from her situation by a boy, but hers is not a Cinderella type of fantasy. Her infatuation with a rebellious high school boy is somewhat understandable, but her relationship with a certain school bully is nothing short of surreal. I only wish I could discuss the psychology of this aspect of the movie in this context. The one thing that really struck me about this movie is the fact that we never see Dawn cry; she internalizes all of her torments, and this does not have a pretty effect on her. I may be inventing a phrase here, but the director's vision seems to me to have been one of unsympathetic compassion. Far from holding Dawn up as the paragon of innocent, unrecognized virtue whose Prince Charming will come some day, he gives us a girl who becomes cruel in her own right to those few people around her, turning her hatred of others into a deep hatred of herself, several times teetering on the peak of mental unbalance. Solondz does not stray anywhere near the realm of fairy tale, as this ugly duckling does have an ugly side to her. The brutal honesty and lack of a visibly sympathetic portrayal of the character makes her worst moments even more unbearable to the viewer, and this is where the compassion kicks in. Solondz seemingly makes no effort to redeem this character in our eyes, yet the fact that he shows us, in such a harsh and brutal way, the miseries of this poor child's life makes her a character you desperately want to see find a degree of happiness. The only thing I don't really understand about Welcome to the Dollhouse is the dark comedy label it seems to have acquired. I found nothing funny whatsoever about anything I saw here. Maybe that's the sensitivity of the former nerd in me, but honestly this movie is just utterly dark and depressing. Those looking for laughs will probably not embrace Welcome to the Dollhouse, but those who want to see the harsh light of truth shone into the bottom of an individual's soul and learn something from the painful experience will walk away from this film a different person than they were an hour and a half earlier. This movie has the power to touch you in ways you may never have imagined.
Has anyone ever been bullied at school? Well this film is good because Todd Solendz certainly brings those painful days to the screen vividly in Welcome to the Dollhouse.I felt ever so sorry for Dawn Wiener, there she was the nice girl who was victimised both at home and school. I think this film certainly is great viewing for gaining an awareness into issues such as teenage angst and bullying especially with bullying being so rife in schools and sadly blighting the lives of children worldwide. I think Heather Matarazzo is great as the put -upon Dawn and I'm surprised I haven't seen her in anything more high profile ever since. She could still be a great actress of the future. Todd Solenz always sets out to shock and he certainly has with this gem of a film. This film is certainly quite memorable as one of the best films of all time depicting adolescence. Clueless it defintely isn't!