Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Is It about the Seventh Grade? `Welcome to the Dollhouse' Director Satirically Captures the Universal Horror of Junior Highdom

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

What Is It about the Seventh Grade? `Welcome to the Dollhouse' Director Satirically Captures the Universal Horror of Junior Highdom

Article excerpt

Todd Solondz hit the seventh grade like a marathoner hitting the Wall.

At the age of 11, Solondz said, he was striding along, "at the peak of my creative powers. I was writing stories and playlets, putting together poetry projects. I was absorbed by my `work.'

"At 12, I was no longer reading or writing, just counting off days and checking them off. I was interested in survival."

"What is it about seventh grade?" he asked.

Whatever it is, it apparently happened to a lot of us, judging from the almost universally favorable reaction to "Welcome to the Doll house." Solondz's satirical movie about the terrors of junior high school opens here Friday. It tells the horrifically funny story of Dawn Wiener, a rather nerdy 11-year-old who is battered by her classmates, cruelly scorned and baffled by the volcanic rise of her own sexual hormones.

"It is not a coming of age story," Solondz wrote in a "director's note" for "Welcome to the Dollhouse."

"I do not believe it is possible to come of age in seventh grade," he continued. "The film is a comedy because that is the only way I know how to deal with excruciating torment, and I find something both funny and poignant in the struggle to endure humiliation."

"Welcome to the Dollhouse," the surprise winner of the Grand Jury Prize at this winter's Sundance Film Festival, was also a notable success in April at the Spring Sampler of the St. Louis Film Festival.

While here, the 36-year-old Solondz explained that he had written the script

seven years ago, but figured it was too dark and weird ever to be produced. But his lawyer eventually found some backers.

"I thought they were foolish," he said, "but apparently I was wrong. Apparently, I've struck some kind of universal chord. I don't know quite how I did it."

The main character in "Welcome to the Dollhouse" is a geeky 11-year-old girl named Dawn Wiener -- "Wienerdog" to her meaner classmates. …

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