Welcome to the Dollhouse
Welcome to the Dollhouse is a 1995 American coming-of-age black comedy film written and directed by Todd Solondz. An independent film, it won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival and launched the careers of Solondz and Heather Matarazzo. 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.
|Welcome to the Dollhouse|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Todd Solondz|
|Produced by||Todd Solondz|
|Written by||Todd Solondz|
|Music by||Jill Wisoff|
|Edited by||Alan Oxman|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Classics|
|Box office||$5 million|
Twelve-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 seventeen-year-old brother Mark is a nerdy high school student who plays clarinet in a garage band and shuns girls in order to prepare for college. Dawn's younger sister, eight-year-old Missy, is a spoiled, manipulative little girl who pesters Dawn and dances around the house in a tutu. Their mother dotes on Missy and sides with her in disputes with Dawn. Their father is a meek, immature, selfish man who sides with Dawn's mother 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. After her teacher unfairly keeps her after school, she is threatened with rape by a bully named Brandon McCarthy, who also has trouble socializing. At home Dawn's mother punishes her for calling Missy a lesbian and refusing to be nice to her. Dawn gets in trouble at school after she accidentally hits a teacher in the eye with a spitball. Brandon's first attempt to rape Dawn after school fails, but he orders her to meet him again. After she complies, he takes her to an abandoned field. He starts an earnest conversation with her and kisses her.
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 decides to pursue him romantically after he spends time with her, even though one of Steve's former girlfriends tells Dawn she has no chance of being with him.
Dawn and Brandon form an innocent romance, but Brandon is arrested and expelled for suspected drug dealing. Dawn visits his home and meets his father and mentally challenged brother who requires constant supervision. After kissing Dawn, Brandon 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' 20th 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 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. That night, Dawn smashes the tape and briefly brandishes her hammer over Missy as she sleeps.
A few weeks later, Dawn's father's car breaks down and her mother has to pick him up from work. Dawn is supposed to tell Missy to find a ride home from ballet class but chooses not to do so after arguing with her; Missy is kidnapped while walking home. When Missy's tutu is found in Times Square, Dawn goes to New York City to find her. After a full day searching for Missy, Dawn phones home and Mark tells her that Missy was found by police after being abducted by a pedophile neighbor who lives on their street. Dawn returns home. Later, Dawn's classmates ridicule her as she presents a thank you speech. After the principal tells the unruly students to be quiet, Dawn musters the emotional strength to finish her speech and makes a quick exit.
Summer arrives and Dawn is relieved that school is over for the time-being. Mark tells Dawn that she cannot expect school life to get any better until she starts high school. As Dawn's parents continue mistreating and ignoring her, Dawn signs herself up to attend a summer camp in Florida. On a school trip to Walt Disney World, Dawn sits among other girls from her school and joins them in singing the school anthem. Unnoticed, her voice slowly trails off as she sits looking out a bus window.
- 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.
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." Metacritic gives the film a weighted average score of 83 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
- "Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)". The Numbers. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- Deming, Mark. "Welcome to the Dollhouse: Overview". AllMovie. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- Maslin, Janet (March 22, 1966). "FILM FESTIVAL REVIEW;Young, Geeky and Suburban". The New York Times. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- Johnson, Eric C. (February 28, 2011). "Roger Ebert's Top Ten Lists 1967–2006: 1996". Behold, the Mutants Shall Wither... Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- "Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 18, 2018.
- "Welcome to the Dollhouse Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved July 18, 2018.