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‘Welcome to the Dollhouse’

They still torture the old way in junior high. They call you awful names. They tease and torment the weak. The awkwardness is unbearable, the hopelessness unrelenting. It’s enough, Todd Solondz says, to make you laugh. This alchemist’s ability to turn misery into something bitingly funny defines “Welcome to the Dollhouse.” Written and directed by Solondz, this 1996 release won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival for its daring double vision, its mirroring of junior high agonies combined with a willingness to step aside and see everything from a darkly humorous perspective. For 11-year-old Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo, pictured with Brendan Sexton), a.k.a. Wiener-dog and Dogface, suburban Benjamin Franklin Junior High is no laughing matter: It’s a near-death experience that has to be endured every day (Showtime Monday at 10:05 p.m.).


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