Heather Matarazzo won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance as 11-year-old misfit Dawn Wiener in Todd Solondz' stark suburban comedy about a middle child in middle school in the middle of New Jersey. Sometimes hated, often reviled, seldom understood, Dawn tries in vain to put on a happy and friendly face as she deals with the onset of what looks to be a long puberty. As she struggles to cope with inattentive parents, snobbish classmates, a smart older brother, a cute younger sister, and her own insecurities, she sees that life is generally grim, and sometimes it only gets grimmer. Nevertheless, she does find moments of grace amidst the pain and humiliation of her first series of frustrated love affairs, and soon begins to wonder if life might not be better outside New Jersey . . .