Film Independent’s “Welcome to the Dollhouse” event transformed a cult classic into a political statement

Considering the current political climate, it seems like a better time than ever to temporarily get lost in some of our favorite books and movies. Taking a few hours to enjoy the familiar comfort of a well-loved story is exactly what many of us need — which is why the premiere event of Film Independent at LACMA’s new “Bring The Noise” program was perfectly timed last Saturday.

In collaboration with Guest Artist-in-Resident, T Bone Burnett, Film Independent at LACMA has launched “Bring The Noise,” a series of events matching cult classic movies with new scores from a rotating cast of musicians. For the kickoff event on January 28th, Seth Bogart of Hunx and His Punx took on Welcome to the Dollhouse. Heather Matarazzo, who played the film’s lead character, was also in attendance.


The 1995 film tells the story of 12-year-old Dawn Wiener, a middle child who feels lost in the fray at home and at school. It’s a dark coming-of-age story about exactly how much middle school sucks. There are bullies, a distant older brother, a spoiled younger sister, and parents who’ve clearly picked a side that isn’t Dawn’s. Life isn’t easy. But along the way, little spots of hope start to pop up.

That’s a message that Matarazzo thinks we can relate to right now:

"This country is run by a group of huge bullies," she explained, but like her character, we'll find our messages of hope — or at least the perseverance to stick it out.

She added:

"We're here and we will stay...Embrace your inner Dawn Wiener and keep going."

The lights fade out and it’s Seth Bogart’s time to shine, playing live music and his own original score to the stripped-down film. He made sure to note before he started that it was his absolute favorite movie in high school, and he’s not alone. It’s clear the audience is packed with Dollhouse fans, smiling at key moments — Steve’s “You’re being like a total fascist” gets a particularly loud laugh from the crowd — and hushed in rapt silence at others.


The music starts out with a bubbly technological sound like an early computer booping away. Seth switches between keyboard and guitar for the songs, adding in vocals when high school hottie Steve joins the band and starts to sing. Seth’s new score, at turns rocker then punk then soaring classical as Missy dances across the stage, complements the film and leads to some fun laughs. “That doesn’t sound too much like ‘Satisfaction,’” one of the characters says after a performance of what was now definitely not “Satisfaction.”

21 years after its Sundance win for Grand Jury Prize, Welcome to the Dollhouse holds up.

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And watching it in LACMA’s Bing Theater with fans of the movie, playing along to a score from one of the biggest fans of all, is an experience unlike anything other.

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In the months to come, Film Independent will be reviving more classic films to tunes from artists like composer Michael Andrews, Bleachers’s Jack Antonoff, Warpaint’s Emily Kokal, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner.

“The intersection of great independent film and music is at the heart of Bring the Noise and Guest Artist-In-Residence T Bone Burnett is the perfect embodiment of how these two worlds collide,” shared Josh Welsh, president of Film Independent. “I look forward to seeing how these talented musicians and composers will reimagine these films.”

We can’t wait to see them!