Sunday, 7 June 2009

No. 151 : Welcome To The Dollhouse



Another slice of life now in the shape of this pretty horrible tale of a girl being bullied at school. There are a few light bits but on the whole the film will be a depressing experience for anyone who wasn’t a cool kid in the playground. Not me of course, I was well liked.

We follow a few days in the life of Dawn a 14 year old who looks a lot like Olive out of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’. She has the unfortunate surname ‘Weiner’ and gets bullied for her looks and is accused of being a ‘lesbo’. Although she doesn’t react to her tormentors she does pass on the ambivalence to her younger sister in the shape of cutting up her Barbies and by calling her a ‘lesbo’.

She has a brother who is also seeking a bit of acceptance by befriending a cool kid by helping him out in class and by having him in his garage band. Her parents aren’t much use either insisting that she dismantle her gang hut so that they can have a party in the garden.

Dawn is also blossoming into womanhood and a has a younger, nerdier suitor but she’s more interested in the unobtainable Steve, who is as hot as all Steves are. In the meantime she has to make do with bully Brandon who schedules regular dates with Dawn so that he can ‘rape’ her which never gets beyond some awkward kissing. Things come to a head when Dawn, after being humiliated at her parents’ party, lets her sister get stranded and then kidnapped. With Dawn now ignored by the frantic parents she falls into a fantasy world where she saves the day, but can she save herself or at least get a date?

This was seemingly quite a successful film that won the Sundance Film Festival but I’d never heard of it before. It’s not that its low budget and independent as ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ did well from a similar starting point, but what this lacks that the former doesn’t is a big heart.

Dawn isn’t a particularly nice character and although we’re lead to believe that’s because of her maltreatment elsewhere it’s hard to care when she has troubles when we see that she’s just as bad a bully as her tormentors. The fact that she uses the same insults as are used on her show that she’s just paying it forward but it’s not exactly an endearing trait. The best scenes are those that involve wannabe rapist Brandon who’s just as big a misfit as Dawn. He too has a dysfunctional family so it’s not hard to see that it’s the home environment that’s getting the blame for this one.

It’s by no means a bad film but there isn’t that much to like and the heart warming is kept to a bare minimum. The lead girl does well in an unflattering role but we have no empathy for her despite a real grim rite of passage. The fantasy sequence towards the end was one of the few joyous moments and if the film had a few of these peppered throughout it’d have been a far more rewarding experience.

Best Bit : Dreamy Dawn Saves The Day
‘W’ Rating : 14/23

No comments: