The feature stars Danielle Macdonald as Willowdean ‘Dumplin’, the plus-size teenage daughter of a former beauty pageant queen, played by Jennifer Aniston. Throughout her life, Willdowdean’s auntie Lucie has been her idol and inspiration but six months prior to the events of the movie, she passes away. As Willowdean comes to terms with her death, she learns that her aunt’s legacy lives in on the form of the lives she touches. Equally importantly is the unconditional love for Dolly Parton that she handed down to her niece and best friend.
If we’re being brutally honest, the plot of the film is average and there’s not much which isn’t predictable. Willowdean enters a beauty pageant in protest and ends up starting a “revolution” from the inside, demonstrating that beauty pageant culture shouldn’t be reserved for the thin and traditionally beautiful. In the film’s climax, fellow plus-size contestant Millie Michalchuck steals the show and ends up being awarded second place. Sure, she doesn’t win, but progress has been made in the small Texas town they reside in.
Despite being predictable, Dumplin’ was still a delight to watch. Willowdean was wholly compelling as a character and we related to her and were rooting for her all the way through. Her truth was not to celebrate yourself and your body in spite of what you look like, but to embrace everything. In a powerful speech to her mum, she declares that she is Dumplin’, but she’s also Willowdean and a beauty queen. She’s everything she wants to be and she is not limited by any one attribute. Our protagonist will not be put in a box by anyone and her confidence radiates from within.
It is difficult to watch the movie and not compare it to Netflix’s Insatiable which was released earlier this year. They both share the theme of beauty pageants and a plus-sized teenage girl looking to enter in protest. The difference is that everything Insatiable got wrong, Dumplin’ got right.
Whereas the former beauty queen shed a ridiculous amount of weight to participate, Willowdean didn’t need to change a thing about herself, she just needed to access the confidence and power she already had. Patty was self-obsessed and alienated those around her whereas Willowdean harnessed the beauty and uniqueness of those who wanted her to succeed. She built on herself and didn’t change the core of who she was, taking on board Dolly Parton’s advice: “find out who you are, and do it on purpose.”
All in all, Dumplin’ was the feel-good film we needed at the end of a rocky 2018 and I for one, will be taking on some of the heartfelt sentiments shared in the movie.
3.5/5: Hardly Oscar-winning, but a wonderful and beautiful addition to Netflix nonetheless.