2 Best Movies to Watch by Matthew Faber

Staff & contributors

, 1994

Filmed with a perfect blend of realism and embellished style, Fresh is a coming-of-age story set in the poverty of the New York City projects, wherein the protagonist "grows up" only by learning to become dangerous and losing his sense of self. There's no satisfaction in watching 12-year-old Michael (or "Fresh," as he's called) use his supposed innocence as a tool to manipulate his way to a safer position. The system continues to reign supreme and Fresh only buries himself into a deeper hole. Boaz Yakin's direction is direct and expressive, the city stirring to vibrant life in every scene, and the tremendous performances from Giancarlo Esposito and a then-teenage Sean Nelson drive home the tragedy with full force.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Afi Bijou, Ali A. Wahhab, Anthony Ruiz, Anthony Thomas, Belinda Becker, Charles Malik Whitfield, Cheryl Freeman, Cortez Nance Jr., Curtis McClarin, Danielia L. Cotton, Davenia McFadden, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Elsie Hilario, F. Murray Abraham, Giancarlo Esposito, Guillermo Díaz, Iraida Polanco, Jacinto Taras Riddick, Jason Rodriguez, Jean-Claude La Marre, Jerome Butler, José Zúñiga, Luis Lantigua, Matthew Faber, N'Bushe Wright, Natima Bradley, Robert Jimenez, Ron Brice, Samuel L. Jackson, Sean Nelson, Yul Vazquez

Director: Boaz Yakin

Welcome to the Dollhouse tells the story of Dawn, an unpopular seventh-grader mercilessly bullied at school and ignored at home. Her day-to-day is painful to watch; her classmates make fun of her, her teachers never believe her, and her parents punish her, blatantly favoring her other siblings over her. But all this she puts up with, as if going through the murky in-between stage that is adolescence isn't confusing enough. Dawn finds no respite elsewhere, except perhaps in her friend Ralphy (another target of bullying) and her crush, the high schooler Steve.  

A Sundance jury winner back in '96, Welcome to the Dollhouse is as darkly funny as it is grim. It takes on a deadpan approach in handling its more serious topics; it doesn't make fun of them so much as it shines them in a new and blinding light. It's difficult to look away from this frank and well-balanced film; a sure good watch for anyone curious to know what it's really like to be a teenage loner.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Angela Pietropinto, Bill Buell, Brendan Sexton III, Christina Brucato, Christina Vidal, Daria Kalinina, Eric Mabius, Heather Matarazzo, Ken Leung, Matthew Faber, Rica Martens, Richard Gould, Siri Howard, Stacey Moseley, Teddy Coluca, Victoria Davis, Will Lyman

Director: Todd Solondz

Rating: R