Starring: Heather Matarazzo, Christina Brucato, Victoria Davis
Director: Todd Solondz
Running Time: 88 mins
Welcome To The Dollhouse is an American film about an ugly seventh-grader who struggles through junior high school with uncaring parents, an elegant younger sister, an intelligent older brother, and a whole host of other problems that make her life a living hell.
This film is so depressing. I would say that, on the face of things, it’s an Ugly Betty origins story, but it’s not in any way hilariously comedic, but instead one of the blackest family dark comedies I’ve ever seen, and while it is definitely a slow starter, with a relatively boring and annoying first 45 minutes or so, it’s got a stunningly upsetting and dark ending that really hits you hard.
However, we’ll start with the first period of the film, which encompasses the first two acts before the dramatic finale. The reason that I say it’s boring is because the character’s life in the first act is indeed that boring, but the film doesn’t seem able to turn that into either a comedic or dramatic note, and the story instead has a bit of a lacklustre feel to it.
The second act is a little bit of an improvement, with some of the girl’s more bizarre characteristics showing up, however in this part of the film, she just becomes absolutely insufferable, not in a funny way, but in a way that really makes you despise her to the extent that you just don’t want to hear her story any more.
However, if you do persist, this film really turns itself around in the final act, which is totally unpredictable, hugely dark and absolutely enthralling. After a series of affairs that leads to a major disaster in the girl’s family, all of the attention is brought off of her and onto someone else.
It’s tough to talk in depth about this part of the film without spoiling it, but what it does do so well is demonstrate that this girl’s life is so hellish because of the lack of attention and care she receives from her parents, something that, in comparison to her siblings, seems deeply unfair and upsetting, and that’s the most interesting theme of the final act.
There’s also a bit of peril towards the climax, not outside the bounds of this very down-to-earth story, but dark and dangerous enough to have you biting your nails by the end, and that’s what really adds to the atmosphere and intrigue of the film: excitement.
Overall, this gets a 6.9, because despite having two very boring opening acts, its stunning finale was enough to salvage some degree of interest for me.