Dawn Wiener is a middle child in middle school in the middle of New Jersey. She is is known to her friends as “wiener dog” but then again, she really doesn’t have any friends. It is just a nickname she endures, and enduring is what she does most the time in this, her first year of junior high. She is in limbo — that place between childhood and adulthood known as puberty.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is a stark suburban comedy that takes you back to a time when your life didn’t make sense (not that it ever does), but this is that awful time when you still believed it should. Todd Solondz has created a neoclassic protagonist, an eleven-year-old girl who fits in neither at home nor at school. She’s the type you hoped would not sit next to you in the lunchroom. She breaks your heart as she scrutinizes the world through thick, not-so-rose-colored glasses. She is not a character in a TV sitcom where everything comes out all right in the end or who takes off her glasses and is suddenly beautiful. Dawn Wiener’s problems are real.
Solondz is a master at creating a world that is slightly askew though totally familiar. The art direction and costumes alone will send you reeling into your own memories. He walks the delicate line between style and reality. Welcome to the Dollhouse is neither sentimental nor condescending and because of that, Dawn’s journey remains poignant. So then how can her plight be funny? Those of us who were more of a “wiener dog” than a football captain or head cheerleader will understand the pain, but hopefully enough time has passed so we can laugh as well. –Sundance
Solondz’s first color film with sync sound was the short “Schatt’s Last Shot” (1985). Solondz played a high schooler who wants to get into Stanford, but cannot because his sadistic gym teacher fails him. He also has no luck seducing the girl he desires. It was a student film, and is still screened at NYU, where Solondz made it.
Solondz’s first feature was Fear, Anxiety & Depression (1989), a piece about a writer (Solondz) writing a play and sending it to Samuel Beckett.
Solondz found great critical acclaim with his second feature, Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995), a film about the cruelty of junior high school, parents, adult figures, and suburban life. The film won awards at Sundance, Berlin, and countless other festivals for its cruel realism, bitter humor, and unflinching portrayal of adolescence.
His third feature effort, Happiness (1998), was a wildly edgy and provocative film. The film revolves around a group of people who are miserable in their conventional… read more
"In revisiting his darkly comic 1998 ensembler Happiness, Todd Solondz may have made his best film with Life During Wartime," proposes Todd
When this film came out it made a splash. It was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and had a lot of buzz. I went to go see it on it’s opening weekend a Sunday thinking I would be able to get tickets… read review
Pity poor Dawn Weiner. Not only does she have an unfortunate last name, but she is easily the most hated girl at her school, and probably the most hated little girl ever depicted on film, thanks mostly… read review