Film Review: Dumplin’

January 23, 2019

Dumplin' Cast Promotion Picture

LOS ANGELES – DEC 6: From left, Julie Murphy, Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Dolly Parton and guest at the Dumplin’ movie premiere at the TCL Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, CA.

The new Netflix film Dumplin’ is a delightful and inspirational dramedy about plus-size teen Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald) who goes against cultural norms when she signs up for the small-town beauty pageant. To complicate matters further, the beauty pageant is being managed by her mother and former beauty queen, Rosie, played by Jennifer Aniston.

Directed by Anne Fletcher, Dumplin’ is based on the popular young adult novel by Julie
Murphy, that takes place in Clover City, Texas. The film takes its name from the childhood term of endearment Willowdean’s mother still calls her, and which the high-schooler finds cringe-worthy and embarrassing. The loss of her beloved Aunt Lucy, whom she shared a lot more in common with than her mom, magnifies Will’s insecurity about not being “pageant material,” based on her mother’s beauty-queen ideals, and tests their already brittle mother-daughter relationship.

After spending years of feeling unwanted by her mother who only dotes on her beautiful pageant girls, as well as fending off school bullies because of her weight and appearance, Will decides she has had enough.

An old pageant form, filled out but never entered by her Aunt Lucy, sparks the idea for a revolution. The feisty teen decides to start a “protest in heels” by signing up to compete for the Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant despite the initial objection of her mortified mother.

Will goes on a journey of self-discovery alongside her best friend Ellen (Odeya Rush) and two other non-stereotypical teens who were inspired by Will’s bravado. Together and with the help of fierce Drag Queens, they honour the memory of her late aunt as they embrace all the eye-opening new experiences filled with glitter, big hair and high stilettos.

Dumplin’ is a fun coming-of-age story that’s as sassy and spirited as Dolly Parton, whose music makes up the soundtrack of the film. Although it had a few moments and characters the movie could have done without, Dumplin’ is an uplifting film that feels familiar, but the message of self-love and body positivity is better than most we have seen before.

Written by Dianne Lopez-Mahoney