Classic Film Review: Welcome to the Dollhouse

Full Title: Welcome to the Dollhouse
Director: Todd Solondz
Year: 1996
Being a huge fan of Todd Solondz’s later film Happiness (1998) I had high expectations for this flick and fortunately they were more than satisfied. WTD follows the life of a bespectacled, nerdy, awkward, and lonely Junior Highschooler named Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo), who is the victim of excessive abuse from her peers, parents (verbal, neglect), and teachers. As usual, Solondz presents this over the top mess with dark, acerbic humor and quirky, colorful characters. Yes, for some the humor might be totally lost as I warn you now, this is not for the weak at heart. It is quite disturbing and may be extremely heart wrenching for those who actually suffered from bullying, sexual harassment, abduction, amongst other torturous activity. With that being said, this film is not a drama in the traditional sense; Solondz himself labels his movies as “sad comedies.” Haha, I couldn’t agree more! For me though, I didn’t find this as funny as say Happiness, which leaves me in stitches despite or because of the lurid subject matter of that film. Perhaps, it is because this is my first viewing, after all it took me at least three times around to really get past the fucked up nature of Solondz’s movies to truly appreciate the comedy of Happiness. So, who knows maybe after a couple more screenings (which I guarantee will happen) I’ll crack up at WTD. All in all, this is a great film that is rich, unique, and always keeps you curious what will happen next. I don’t like this as much as Happiness because it focuses more on one character than several characters, but that isn’t much of a flaw. Overall, this is a “no bullshit” film, so to speak; it sticks with it’s harsh, black comedy style and never lets up like most other movies with the same subject matter would. These characters are far more realistic and are not simply cliched two dimensional specimens. The main character Dawn, the victim, exploits people, makes fun of others and is incredibly self-centered. Yet, we sympathize with her because, well, everyone fucking hates her and torments the poor girl to no end. Solondz never dresses up this horrible situation, but rather provides merciless satire and a really fascinating storyline. KLYAM RECOMMENDED? You know it.

: A/A-, highly recommend!

This musical number from the film and Dawn’s reaction to the performance (great acting by Heather lol) clearly demonstrates the off kilter, quirky nature of the movie.

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