New Jersey suburban life
is so successfully captured by 1996 Sundance Grand Jury Prize Winner "Welcome to the Dollhouse
" it is creepy
To a greater extent, we experience what is most certainly the quintessence
of junior high school
The protagonist, Dawn Weiner, a 13-year-old dork, is portrayed by the very aptly cast Heather Matarazzo. Dawn endures daily humiliation at the hands of her classmates. Her locker is less a locker than a landing place for vicious graffiti. Her teachers think she cheats on her quizzes.. and her only friend is a sixth grader, the height of embarrassment.
A typical junior high school, miserable students wander the hallways bullying the weaklings and taunting one another with acknowledgements of "faggot" and "lesbo". At home, she is still basically an awkward, tortured seventh-grader to whom everybody doesn't even have the respect to ignore, they feel the need to sneer and jibe at her, even her parents, who make no secret of the fact that they much prefer her younger sister. Her only refuge is her Special People clubhouse in the backyard. But even that small solace is shattered when she invites self-impressed Jon Bon Jovi wannabe Steve, the lead singer in her brother's band, to join her club and he sneers, "Special People equals retards. Your club is for retards."
She spends her time pining away for Steve until she is threatened with rape by some punk kid at school, who then goes on to become her first kiss, and an abusive first beau, purely because he's the first person to pay her any attention, good or bad.
The story itself has little direction, and is supplemented by all the tiny, irritating details to make it all the more empty and depressing.
All that green carpet, cheap wood paneling, the sprinklers watering the driveway, an out of tune living room piano, pink sweat pants, go go boots and an irritating twirling sister in a tutu, who is sweet and pink and sugary.
It's these chilling little elements rather than the story though, that gives the film it's disconcerting, alluring air. Actually, as the film carries on the story gets less agreeable and more drifty.
The end of this movie does not make us feel as if Dawn will triumph over her situation. Instead she will endure it to the best of her ability, with the hope that each taunt will make her stronger in the long run. I recommend this one if you're in the mood to be depressed. But then again, i found it to be ultimately quite liberating.