Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995)

Director: Todd Solondz

Running Time: 88 Minutes

Certification: 15

Starring: Heather Matarazzo, Matthew Faber, Daria Kalinina, Angela Pietropinto, Bill Buell, Brendan Sexton III, Eric Mabius, Dimitri DeFresco, Victoria Davis

A seemingly picture-perfect image opens this film, as the camera lingers on a family portrait while piano music plays. The reality is far from the joy the picture implies, as high-school junior Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) is constantly picked on by her classmates and her family. Her unpopularity is shown when she stands up to school bully Brandon (Brendan Sexton III), only for Dawn to be quickly disregarded by the boy he was tormenting.

Todd Solondz's dark comedy captures the seemingly inescapable horrors of high-school, as dreadful words and actions come from kids unable to grapple with their emotions, without understanding the weight of what they say or do. All that's done in response to the building rage is to pass on the misery, regardless of how dire the consequences may be. This is seen in Ralphy (Dimitri DeFresco), Dawn's friend who ends up on the receiving end of her anger.

In the lead role, Matarazzo tremendously captures the simmering anger and loneliness of this girl who just wants to be loved, yet finds things never go her way. Adding to the misery is her toxic family unit, who constantly disregard her feelings and leave her on the receiving end of their frustrations. Respite arrives in the form of Dawn's first crush, Steve Rodgers (Eric Mabius), the lead singer in her brother's band that treats her with kindness. Contrasting him is Brandon, the intense bully whose horrible actions mask his vulnerability.

What writer/director Solondz has crafted is a non-judgemental work which shows life as it is, complete with the everyday cruelty humans are capable of, while humour shines through such darkness. Between capturing the dizzying heights of a first crush and the pain of being a teenager who doesn't fit in, this coming-of-age film is the perfect antidote to anybody nostalgic for their high-school days.

Welcome to the Dollhouse is available now on Blu-Ray from Radiance Films