Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995) ****

Few other films deal with the awkwardness of being nerdy in junior high in the way that Welcome To The Dollhouse (1995) does. And I mean truly nerdy, not this "chic nerdy" that's in fashion these days. Todd Solondz never shies away from the hopelessness, the cruelty or the misery, but all in the service of absurd comedy.

Yet there is at all times a level of reality that any outsider can relate to. This is perhaps most evident in the way all the characters casually throw around the words "faggot" and "retard," a very common occurrence in the 90s. There's also the pecking order—even our hero Dawn Wiener, endlessly tortured, teased, and tattled on (in addition to being neglected by her parents), lashes out at those "beneath" her when the opportunity presents itself.

I hadn't seen Dollhouse in at least 15 years, and while I've always loved it, I don't think I quite realized how much the influence of John Waters hangs over the film. While much more in line with that director's "safer" output, it operates on the same wavelength—black comedy for misfits, for those who like a dose of weirdness and hard reality with their laughs.

For fans of Heathers (1988), Serial Mom (1994) and Slacker (1990).