By Richard Winters
My Rating: 7 out of 10
4-Word Review: She doesn’t fit in.
Another flick about the trials and tribulations of high school life. There is the shy, sensitive, and alienated girl, the bitchy cheerleaders, the bullies, the name calling, the not being able to find a seat at lunchtime, the stupid teachers, the too busy to listen parents, the bratty siblings, and yes even the spitballs. This is a very accurate and concise portrait of Junior High. It will make you soooooooo glad that you are past that age and will never have to go back to it.
It’s the pinpoint accuracy that makes this film stand out the most. Every scene and segment ring true. Even the little stuff from the way the little sister answers the phone to the way our protagonist Dawn Wiener (Heather Matarazzo) always seems to get blamed even when it really isn’t her fault.
Although the film displays many of the ugly elements of that age it doesn’t wallow or sensationalize them. In fact this film has a nicely balanced perspective. It shows scenes from both Dawn’s high school life and family life. It weaves a nice tapestry and observes how interconnected everything really is. The family life scenes are probably more interesting and in many ways just as difficult.
The film has a good ability at bringing out all the confusion that permeates that age. It is interesting how it shows that everyone is a bit alienated and lost. A big fish can simply get eaten up by an even bigger one. For example there is Steve a good looking kid with a nice singing voice. He is ‘cool’ and when in school everything goes his way. Yet when he drops out so as to ‘make it big’ in New York he suddenly realizes how stacked the odds are against him. There is also Brandon the class bully. He is a composite of all those other bullies. At first you really dislike him, but then you witness his very sad home life. You learn to understand not only why he acts the way he does, but also begin to feel sorry for him.
The film also scores by not letting the adults off the hook either. They are in many ways very much of the problem. They suffer from their own type of confusion and have their own type of code. They lack the ability to really communicate as much as the kids do. Junior high may be a mean, ugly, and crazy place, but that is only because it is a byproduct of very mean, ugly, and crazy world.
If the film has a weak point it is with the ending that fails to give any type of closure. Of course it doesn’t have to, but it would have given it more of an impact and made it come more full circle. Yet even if it doesn’t show it we still know that Dawn will make it. There are many scenes that show her to be very resourceful and strong willed when she needs to be. She is, like a lot of us, a survivor.
My Rating: 7 out of 10
Released: September 10, 1995
Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes
Director: Todd Solondz
Studio: Suburban Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Amazon Instant Video