Living In: Welcome To the Dollhouse

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Todd Solondz’ classic film Welcome To The Dollhouse may wear an R Rating and come packaged as satire, but its subject matter —the awkward world of junior high school—is depicted with more truth and authenticity than many of its PG-13 teenybopper peers. Centered around a gangly, socially awkward girl (played by a brilliantly cast Heather Matarazzo), the film looks at pre-teen suburban angst through a dark, wickedly hilarious lens. The costumes and sets are unabashedly garish (Matarazzo’s getups are particularly fabulous), the humor is decidedly non-PC, and the adolescent discomfort so palpable you could cut it with a handsaw. Predating similarly kitch-tastic teen flicks like Donnie Darko, Napoleon Dynamite, and Ghost World by nearly a decade, the 1995 film seems remarkably ahead of its time. —Max

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Film: Welcome To The Dollhouse

Year: 1995

Director: Todd Solondz

Starring: Heather Matarazzo, Matthew Faber, Daria Kalinina, Brendan Sexton III, Bill Buell, Angela Pietropinto

Production Design: Susan Block

Art Direction: Lori Solondz

Costume Design: Melissa Toth

  1. I’ve never seen this movie, but it’s on my list now! Great post, I always dig this series.

  2. P.S. May I just say — “adolescent discomfort so palpable you could cut it with a handsaw” is a fabulous bit of writing. :)

  3. Jeannie says:

    I used to have this movie in VHS :)

  4. Catherine says:

    i stumbled upon this movie on cable when i was a pre-teen and I didn’t know what the heck was going on cause i’d never heard of indie films and the like, so the whole awkwardness of this movie just ingrained on me and i would remember bits of as i grew up. No one else in my school had ever seen it so that would make it even more weird when id try to explain to my friends.

  5. Tanea says:

    One of my favorite movies! So awkward and weird.

  6. Anne says:

    Oh, Dawn. This movie was def on the list of films my friends and I obsessed over in college! (Also: Kicking and Screaming, Living in Oblivion, Sleep with Me, Bottle Rocket, Waiting for Guffman…go, mid-’90s!) Haven’t thought of Welcome to the Dollhouse in years, though. Love your take on it!!

  7. victoria says:

    Oh how I love this movie. Todd Solondz is my hero!

  8. Danielle says:

    Poor Dawn. This movie breaks my heart every time. So good though.

  9. Amanda says:

    I saw this movie at the tender age of 14 on VHS, everything hit home with uncanny humor. I love this movie and Dawn, and her awkward belly shirts. <3

  10. Stephanie says:

    Oh my god, thank you for posting this! I love this movie!!

  11. Lauren says:

    I thought I was the only one obsessed with this movie. The dinner scene still makes me so happy.

  12. Sophie says:

    This movie used to crack me and my sister up when we were kids. We still quote it to each other nearly 20 years later!

  13. Nina says:

    Love that you did a Living In with this movie. It’s perfect! It really does have a lot of style….that middle school 90s suburbia look! Excellent!

  14. Liza Miller says:

    I love this m0vie SO much!

    Sophie, my friends and I still quote it, too!

  15. Nicole says:

    Still think this is one of the most honest teen films ever. This film and Thirteen freaked out every parent I knew who saw those films.

  16. Donna says:

    What a fun post! Love this movie! Definitely one of my all time faves ;)

  17. Helen says:

    This makes me so happy! I grew up with Heather in Oyster Bay, NY (I remember running into her at a community pool just after WttD filming wrapped!), and always thought she nailed this role. It’s so nice to see many others feel the same way.

  18. Jenna says:

    Did anyone else think that Brandon was sooo cute? Just me? Okay……

  19. Audrey says:

    This movie is about how seriously tragic grade school can be when you’re not overly trendy and shallow. I strongly advise people to be as generous as possible about their knowledge on fashion and beauty to people that need advice on those areas. Despite how uninformed I was with regards to fashion and attitudes that were appealing to my peers at the time, not to sound egotistical but I look absolutely beautiful now. Most people nowadays, and especially people in grade school can be immature and narrow minded beyond belief. Absolutely, amazing.

  20. CJ says:

    Heather Matarazzo is an amazing actress, but holy crap…did anyone else catch Eric Mabius (Steve) also played Daniel Meade on Ugly Betty?!?! whoaaa

  21. Errol says:

    A fish called wanda….pretty please

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