WHAT IT'S ABOUT:
Willowdean (Dumplin), the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty queen, signs up for her mom's Miss Teen Bluebonnet pageant as a protest that escalates when other contestants follow her footsteps, revolutionising the pageant and their small Texas town.
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
Whenever a TV show or film has weight or being a ‘big person’ as a central point of the story, it’s always a bit of a delicate balance to keep it realistic without turning it into some thinly-veiled morality lesson about ‘lose weight and your life will be better’ spiel. Luckily, those films have started to thin out and have been replaced by body-positivity stories that focus more on self-love. Dumplin’, however, skips those steps to present a lead that’s already comfortable in her skin. “I’m not the Joan of Arc for fat girls” is one of the most poignant lines, and a good summary of the story as whole.
While she, of course, has her insecurities – like everyone else – it’s instead about the clash between a mother and daughter who have different ideas about what will make them happy in the world, and that’s contrasted in how they perceive their bodies. And with star-in-the-making Danielle Macdonald at the helm and Dolly Parton music, it’s also strikingly funny yet grounded.
Willowdean (Macdonald) and her mother (Jennifer Aniston) – an ex-beauty queen – constantly bump heads about life in general. As the pageant season starts gearing up, Willowdean decides to compete in a competition her mother is overseeing, as a means of revolt.
What I like most about this film is its comedic representation of a complicated mother-daughter relationship without turning it into some hijinks cat-fight where both parties are willfully trying to sabotage the other. The mother, although callous and insensitive in the beginning, doesn’t try her utmost to get her daughter out of the competition, while Willowdean isn’t sabotaging some girl’s hairspray to derail the whole competition. There’s also no mean girl out to get the outcasts – and that’s honestly a sigh of relief when this is the norm in films like this. In Dumplin’ girls and women are just trying to support each other or let them get on with their business without some kooky revenge plot, making it a film you want to watch with your daughters.
Aniston and Macdonald have a fiery chemistry that plays well to each other strengths, although Aniston did feel a bit lukewarm in some scenes, as if she’s just going through the motions, but brings the momentum back for the last 15 minutes of the film. Maddie Baillio was also lovely to watch - her sunshine personality is quite infectious and although you might find her too sweet in the beginning, you’ll soon find yourself wanting to see more of her.
And of course, the drag queens are as fierce as Dolly Parton herself.
Dumplin’ is a feel-good film without the clichés, spun together by a great director – Anne Fletcher – a cast that screams girl-power and a soundtrack that will make you sing along. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do in your life, but society makes you feel like you can’t, then watch this movie for some good ol’ Jolene-spiration.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE: