Director Todd Solondz / 1995 / USA

They don't come any blacker, meaner or more deadpan than Todd Solondz' pitch-perfect sophomore feature. Welcome to the Dollhouse. It depicts the physical and psychic humiliations suffered by New lersey 11-year-old, Dawn Wiener (a.k.a 'Wiener Dog'). This unpop­ular middle child serves as a reminder of every abuse we either suffered or perpetrated during our own adolescence. Dawn stoically endures a pre-pubescent limbo, lacking close friends and undergoing a pillorying at the hands of siblings, classmates and grown-ups. With un-flinching realism and meticulous attention to detail, the film establishes itself as an instant American classic about the growing pains of a misfit.

Although the film is a black comedy, Solondz knows better than to play it for broad laughs A lesser filmmaker might have lingered on reactions and cut to close-ups on details, but Solondz has a directorial vision based on a deep knowledge of the material, allowing a visual style emphasising wide shots, sharp cutting and a narrative that finds an uncanny grace in its confident lack of exposition The film's strength lies in the director's resistance to senti­mentalising his character or pandering to the audience in order to whip up sympathy for the ugly duckling The deliciously cruel Welcome To The Dollhouse collected the Dramatic Competition prize at Sundance Film Festival earlier this year

For Dawn Wiener it looks like being a long puberty

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