Directed by Todd Solondz

Starring Heather Matarazzo

"Welcome to the Dollhouse"

Opened: May 31, 1996 | Rated: R

Green carpet, sprinklers watering the driveway, an out of tune living room piano, pink sweat pants, cheap wood paneling -- "Welcome to the Dollhouse" captures the intricate, annoying details of New Jersey suburban life so well it's scary.

But even more so, it captures the essence of junior high school. If you don't feel uneasy watching this movie, you grew up on another planet.

Heather Matarazzo, who can play pathetic like Yoyo Ma play fiddle, portrays Dawn Weiner, a 13-year-old dork who really doesn't have much going for her. Her locker is buried under a mass of cruel graffiti, her teachers think she's a cheat and her only friend is a sixth grader -- how embarrassing.

The story has little direction, but only because Dawn's life has little direction (even less than most 13-year-olds).

She spends her time pining away for a self-impressed Jon Bon Jovi wanna-be who has joined her computer geek brother's make shift garage band until she is threatened by a boy at school, who becomes her first kiss, and an abusive first beau -- only because he's paid her attention.

But it's those scary details, not the story, that lends "Dollhouse" it's unsettling, drawing effect. In fact, as the picture goes on the story gets less palatable and more tangent.

But when director Todd Solondz can capture the awkward clumsiness of two 13-year-olds kissing -- hands on shoulders and hips instead of around necks and waists, the dead-still moment as nose placement is pondered -- he has the audience trapped in a flashback they can't let go of, and that has never been done as well as it is here.

©1996 All Rights Reserved.

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