A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a dark comedy that deals with a tween's alienation from her classmates and family, and deals explicitly with her resulting feelings of rage. There are many references to sex between teens and tweens, a child abduction, and threats of rape. The plot is so off-beat that most younger teens would find it too weird to hold their interest anyway. This is a bleak film about childhood that will be most appreciated by adults.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Written and directed by indie fave Todd Solondz, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE explores the dark underbelly of adolescence through the eyes of tortured tween Dawn Weiner. Dawn deals with issues common to coming-of-age films: coping with bullies, falling in love with older boys, dealing with siblings who seem smarter and prettier, and handling feelings of malaise and general ennui. But in Solondz's hands, Dawn's adolescence is a veritable horror show, she is viciously harassed at school and unloved at home. But this is by no means a feel-good story. Rather, Dawn harbors fantasies of killing her bratty younger sister and confronts a troubled bully who secretly likes her, yet repeatedly threatens to rape her. Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the film is how the adults in her life fail her. Her mother withholds affection and her teachers abandon her to the cruelties of her tormentors.
Is it any good?
Viewers will find themselves rooting for Dawn when she mutilates dolls and destroys family property; this is rendered comically in the film, but it is dark stuff. Adults will be able to appreciate the universality of the film's message: adolescence is a tough time that many experience as being alienating and disconcerting. Dawn's trials and tribulations will likely, ring too true to many kids as well. The film is essentially a commentary on overly rosy portraits of adolescence on film. This fact is likely to escape young viewers. Thus, this is a great film for adults, but it is too sinister and gloomy for kids.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the many issues related to teenaged alienation that are dealt with here. Why is Dawn treated badly by her classmates? How does the film portray her as being different, visually, from the other characters in the film? The film's depiction of teen sex and drug use offers a good opportunity for families to discuss these issues. Why does Dawn assume that Brandon uses drugs? Would you feel the same way? Is Steve Rodgers's treatment of female characters fair or unfair? Finally, the storyline dealing with child abduction might allow families to talk about right vs. wrong behaviors and feelings. Is Missy's abduction Dawn's fault? How should Dawn have handled that situation differently? Why were Dawn's actions dangerous?
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