Release Date(s)1995 (September 25, 2018)
Studio(s)Suburban Pictures/Sony Pictures Classics (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: C
- Extras Grade: D-
One of the most difficult and challenging things to go through in life as a child is having an unhappy home life and being constantly picked on at school. Imagine after being taunted and bullied all day, you have to go home to your parents who mistreat you, making you feel like you are all alone in the world with nowhere to run, and without a single person to help you. Welcome to the Dollhouse is a movie that takes a peek at someone who has to cope with these types of problems.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is the tragic story of an unattractive 12-year-old girl in the seventh grade, Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo). Mistreated by her dysfunctional family, she has two siblings, her older brother Mark (Mathew Faber) and her younger, more attractive sister Missy (Daria Kalinina). At school, she is ridiculed, persecuted, and pushed around by rude, crude, disgusting, and even pretentious classmates. Whenever she tries to defend herself, she somehow winds up in trouble as teachers and other faculty members appear to dislike her too. Despite the adversities she faces every day, Dawn does find some form of happiness. She has a crush on an older man, songwriter Steve Rodgers (Eric Mabius), who's in a band with her brother. Meanwhile, the animosity between Dawn and Missy continues to grow to the point where Dawn indirectly causes a series of events that lead to her younger sister being kidnapped. Once school is done for the semester, she decides to do something about it.
Director Todd Solondz holds nothing back in Welcome to the Dollhouse, which is primarily a black comedy with some really raunchy dialogue and scenarios. He’s not afraid to explore taboo subject matters, such as rape and pedophilia, but does it with style. There’s a stark, yet disturbing realism to the events as they unfold; people like Dawn do exist, and children can be cruel, but Solondz takes an extreme look at just how repulsive they can be. In addition to his stylish direction, the performances are also outstanding. The actors go above and beyond in bringing their characters to life. Heather Matarazo as Dawn, for instance, carries her breakthrough role well, while Brendan Sexton III as Brandon, the heinous, yet sensitive bully drawn to her, is especially good. A successful film to the surprise of many, Welcome to the Dollhouse allowed Todd Solondz to go on and make other films, such as Happiness and Life During Wartime.
The film gets the Blu-ray treatment from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment for the first time and it’s a modest package. The upside of this release is the image quality, which is gorgeous with beautiful vivid, robust colors, and blues coming in really strong. Skin tones are also accurate and black levels appear balanced. The downside begins with the audio. The lone option available is an English 2.0 DTS-HD track with dialogue coming in rather mildly, meaning you might have to raise the volume to properly hear what’s being said. There are also optional subtitles in English SDH. This release also lacks in the extras department, where the only supplement is the original theatrical trailer. This is a little bit disappointing as it would have been nice to hear from the cast and crew about the making of the film. One can see a Criterion release of this type of film in the future, which will likely have more to offer than what’s here.
Welcome to the Dollhouse is certainly most welcome on Blu-ray, and even if it lacks any bonus materials, the viewing experience should be a positive one. It’s certainly worth a spin for those who are unfamiliar with it. If you think you’ve seen all there is to see about films dealing with adolescence, you’re in for a surprise.
- David Steigman